Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver yesterday called for a state probe of Gov. Paterson’s role in pushing a politically wired consortium to run the video-slots casino at Aqueduct Racetrack.
Silver (D-Manhattan) sent a letter asking state Inspector General Joseph Fisch to conduct an inquiry into the Lottery Division’s activities surrounding the selection of the Aqueduct Entertainment Group — whose partners include powerhouse Queens minister Floyd Flake, a former congressman.
Silver particularly asked for scrutiny of the process for rating or evaluating the various bidders — and how the division’s recommendations squared with Paterson’s selection.
"Serious questions have been raised regarding the selection process for an operator of the video-lottery-terminal facility at the Aqueduct Racetrack," Silver said in the letter to Fisch.
In the letter, Silver requested that the state inspector general:
* Review the process and procedures used by the Lottery Division and "other relevant state agencies" involved in the evaluation of bids and in making of recommendations for the selection of a slots operator, and "determine which bidders were recommended" to the governor.
* Determine whether the Lottery Division and other agencies followed the law for procurement contracts.
Under the law established for the Queens track, the Assembly speaker and the Senate majority leader, along with the governor, must sign off on the selection of a video-slots operator.
Sources have said Silver favored SL Green/Hard Rock, while Senate Democratic leader John Sampson wanted AEG. Paterson broke the standoff, siding with AEG.
The choice was further called into question when Paterson met with Flake, his friend and fellow Democrat, seeking political support just days after announcing the award to Flake’s group, AEG.
Yesterday, Paterson vowed to release relevant documents related to the AEG award by Tuesday.
"There is nothing to hide, and all of these documents were shared with legislative leaders during the selection process," said Paterson spokesman Peter Kaufmann.
But Kaufmann said Silver and the Legislature should be part of any inquiry since they have equal say in the selection process.
Paterson’s backing of AEG has come under fire even within his own administration. Sources said key advisers favored other bidders.
And federal prosecutors from Manhattan are probing the deal.
Rival bidders welcomed the inquiry.
"I would hope the inspector general would feel an obligation to do the review," said James Featherstonhaugh, a lobbyist for Aqueduct bidder Delaware North.
"Silver is finally asking the question that somebody should have asked a year ago: What process was conducted by the executive branch of government?"