The FBI is investigating New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s (D.) administration after it was revealed that multiple employees were hired to work in the governor’s office and paid through various state agencies and public authorities, according to a new report.
By hiring political appointees to work for the Executive Chamber, but paying them through various other state entities, Cuomo and other governors have been able to increase their staff sizes while they avoid inflating the Executive Chamber budget, the Times Union reported.
In recent months, however, FBI agents have interviewed a number of people who work for the governor’s office, but are paid by agencies or authorities, about the circumstances of their hirings, according to people familiar with the matter.
One type of evidence being explored by the FBI, sources said, are the written notifications that are sent by agencies or authorities to the governor’s office informing them of a new hire.
In at least some instances, those letters have stated an employee would be working for the agency or authority – when the intention was for them to work for Cuomo’s office, according to a person with knowledge of the matter.
Another line of questioning by the FBI has been whether the Executive Chamber officials’ job duties have any correlation with the agency or authority actually paying them.
A FBI spokeswoman said she could not confirm or deny the existence of an investigation. It’s unclear what criminal law might have been violated by the hiring practice.
The Union conducted an analysis a year ago and discovered 89 of 209 Executive Chamber employees–more than 40 percent–were on the payroll of public authorities or agencies.
Back in March, the trend accelerated when Cuomo’s office announced 27 new hires or promotions of which all but a few were part of the Executive Chamber. Speculation of Cuomo’s 2020 ambitions were escalated with this announcement because many of the new hires were former staffers in the Obama administration or Hillary Clinton’s failed presidential bid.
The names and salaries of the new hires from March can be viewed here.
Rich Azzopardi, Cuomo’s spokesman, declined to answer multiple questions about whether the administration had been subpoenaed.
“In this environment, anyone can ask about anything, but the fact is the longstanding practice of detailing staff from Agencies to work in the Executive Chamber dates back over 50 years to at least the Rockefeller administration and extends to the White House and the federal Department of Justice,” he said.
Cuomo’s office provided examples of prior administrations that handled hiring in the same manner.
The New York Times, for instance, reported in 2003 that 40 Executive Chamber officials working for Gov. George Pataki were on agency or authority budgets.
When Gov. Mario Cuomo announced in 1984 that he would slash his personal staff by 10 percent, he did not actually cut the number of employees reporting to him – instead adding dozens of workers to state agency budget lines. The Times reported that the practice dated back to Gov. Nelson Rockefeller.
“The agencies are all part of the same executive branch, and this administration follows the exact same lawful hiring process we inherited from previous administrations stretching back decades. If there are questions about it, call George Pataki,” Azzopardi said.
Azzopardi added that the line of questioning from the FBI was “absurd.”