ALBANIA – Governor Andrew M. Cuomo faces multiple state and federal investigations and is the focus of a new investigation into his alleged use of government employees to create a bestselling book last year.
On April 13, state auditor Thomas DiNapoli relied on state executive law to issue a formal referral letter requesting a criminal investigation by Attorney General Letitia James. Under state law, DiNapoli is empowered to file the application and delegate jurisdiction over the matter to the Attorney General’s Office.
“Recently allegations have surfaced that public funds have been used to develop and promote the governor’s book,” American Crisis: Leadership Lesson From The COVID-19 Pandemic, “” DiNapoli wrote to James.
DiNapoli requested an investigation “into the use by the Executive Chamber of property, services or resources for personal, private business or other compensated non-governmental purposes, including, but not limited to, the preparation, editing, sale and promotion of the book of the Governor and all related financial or business transactions. “
The New York Times reported Monday that James was following up an investigation in response to DiNapoli’s letter. A spokesman for the Attorney General’s office confirmed receipt of the auditor’s letter but told the Times Union that they would not comment on an “ongoing investigation”.
“We officially jumped the shark – the idea that this is crime is obviously absurd and just promoting a political bunch,” Richard Azzopardi, a senior adviser to Cuomo, told the Times in response to news of the investigation.
“This is the worst policy in Albany,” he continued. “Both the auditor and the attorney general have spoken to people about running for governor and it is unethical to use referral powers to advance political self-interest.”
A number of senior Cuomo advisors helped produce the book, including Governor Melissa DeRosa’s secretary who did extensive editing. Cuomo’s office has claimed the help was voluntary.
There were also more junior staff assigned to tasks related to the book. Some of these junior employees recently told the Times Union that they did not consider their duties to be truly voluntary and that the duties occurred as part of normal work assignments.
Regardless of whether the work was voluntary or not, Cuomo’s special adviser Judith Mogul had expressly stated in a letter requesting approval of the book project that government workers would not be deployed without restrictions. And in July 2020, a senior official on the state Joint Commission on Public Ethics approved Cuomo’s book on condition that no government personnel be employed.
According to the Times, Cuomo received a $ 4 million offer for the book. It remains unclear how much Cuomo was paid and Cuomo again declined to reveal these details at a press conference on Monday.
While the abuse of state government resources is a state-level crime, Cuomo’s book may also be interested in an investigation launched by the US Attorney’s Office in Brooklyn. At the same time as Cuomo aides helped publish the book that painted a positive picture of Cuomo’s handling of the pandemic, Cuomo aides allegedly removed unflattering information from a report on the death toll from COVID-19 in nursing homes.
Cuomo also faces an investigation by two James-appointed attorneys to investigate a spate of sexual harassment allegations against the governor and an impeachment investigation by the congregation’s judicial committee.