New York's former top doc had a staff of lackeys doing her bidding on the taxpayers' dime, according to a report from the state inspector general’s office.
Antonia Novello, a former U.S. surgeon general under President Bush and later Gov. George Pataki's longtime state health commissioner, is accused of racking up $48,000 in overtime charges by making her staffers do personal chores for her.
The report alleges that, whether it was fetching groceries, moving furniture or picking up her dry cleaning, no task was too menial for Novello to delegate to state employees: She once ordered a Medicaid fraud investigator to drive her to Macy's and Saks. In all, New Yorkers allegedly had to pay for more than 2,500 hours in overtime.
Inspector General Joseph Fisch has asked district attorney P. David Soares to consider whether felony charges against Novello are warranted, including defrauding the government and offering a false instrument for filing.
Dr. Novello "shamelessly and blatantly exploited and abused her staff, adding a new dimension to the definition of 'arrogance' and 'chutzpah,' said Fisch in a statement released to the press.
Naturally, Novello's attorney E. Stewart Jones tells a different story.
“I don’t believe that anything she did was unjustified or unwarranted or calls for criminal prosecution,” Jones told the New York Times.
"The inspector general’s method of investigation and method of reporting leaves much to the imagination," Jones added. "They aren't held to the same standard of proof that’s required in a criminal investigation or a criminal trial. They tend to adopt hearsay as truth."
He said that while living in New York City, Novello had a state car, but not a personal one.
"The primary purpose was always business-related," he told the Daily News. "Incidental [personal] use may have occurred, but I don't think it was inappropriate."