(3:11 PM) Emails Show Disgraced Lobbyist Communicating With Top Cuomo Officials

In this June 1, 2009 file photo, Todd Howe poses for a photograph in Albany, N.Y. The government's chief witness is expected to take the stand, Wednesday, Jan. 31, 2018, in the trial of Joseph Percoco, the former top aide to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. (Will Waldron/Times Union via AP, File)

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — A cache of emails shows a lobbyist whose cooperation helped convict two former aides to Gov. Andrew Cuomo on corruption charges had access to top officials in the governor’s administration as he sought help for clients.

The New York Times obtained nearly 350 pages of emails as part of a Freedom of Information request showing aide-turned-lobbyist Todd Howe had access to top Cuomo officials for years.

Howe was a key figure in federal corruption trials this year involving former Cuomo adviser Joseph Percoco and the former head of SUNY Polytechnic Institute, Alain Kaloyeros. Percoco and Kaloyeros worked with Howe on parts of the governor’s “Buffalo Billion” economic development program.

Howe reached a cooperation deal with prosecutors and pleaded guilty to eight felonies.

The Democratic governor has downplayed his relationship with Howe. But the emails show Howe using his access with administration officials.

In December 2014, Howe sent an urgent email to Jim Malatras, then the director of state operations, and his deputy about millions of dollars of payments owed to two upstate development companies. “Both need some payment as a sign of good faith before the close of business tomorrow,” Howe wrote. The two companies — COR Development and LPCiminelli — were later both at the center of the federal corruption cases.

Less than an hour later, an official with Empire State Development confirmed that the agency was approving the Ciminelli payment.

The emails also show Howe communicating with top officials through private email accounts. Public officials are not supposed to discuss official business through private emails.

Cuomo spokesman Richard Azzopardi said Monday the correspondence reflects that fact the Howe was hired to represent by SUNY Polytechnic and other parties.

“However, what wasn’t known then that is known now is that he is a criminal,? an admitted liar and a conman who by his own admission made up stories involving the Governor and his father – including doctoring emails to his friends and clients — to make himself appear relevant,” Azzopardi wrote in an email.

The administration spent over $200,000 on outside counsel fighting the release of the emails. The state appealed an order from a judge to release the documents, but later agreed to a settlement that allowed for the emails’ release.

Howe was rearrested during his time on the stand for violating the terms of his deal with prosecutors. He is free on bail and awaiting sentencing.