What to Know
The FBI is questioning the Cuomo administration about its practice of hiring employees on other agencies' payrolls
The governor's office pushed back hard, calling the FBI investigation "absurd"
The practice, which has been used by past administrations, makes Cuomo's budget look smaller than it really is
Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office said Friday it received subpoenas as part of an FBI criminal investigation into its hiring of staff and how they are paid. But a spokeman for Cuomo pushed back hard calling the inquiry “absurd” and “a charade.”
Investigators are looking into whether dozens of state workers hired on paper to fill specific jobs at various state agencies were instead tasked to work directly for the Democratic governor.
The governor’s spokesman said this is a mere head count and placement issue. But the feds want to know if there is any wrongdoing in using money meant for agencies like transportation or children’s services when in reality those workers may be serving as political appointees to the governor.
The Albany Times Union first reported many of these workers are former Hillary Clinton campaign staffers and other Democratic operatives hired as Cuomo may be exploring a possible presidential run.
FBI spokespeople in Albany and Washington declined comment as did a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s office in Brooklyn, which apparently is helping lead the inquiry. Cuomo’s office said the subpoena was received months ago.
“In this environment, anyone can ask about anything,” Cuomo spokesman Anthony Azzopardi said. “The fact is the longstanding practice of detailing staff from Agenices 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.”
The state GOP issued a statement saying Cuomo is abusing taxpayer dollars to fund his presidential ambitions.
“He’s taking away money staff and resources from agencies that are dedicated to help needy New Yorkers,” the GOP said in the statement, adding Cuomo is “a corrupt hypocrite.”
Cuomo spokesman said former Gov. George Pataki, a Republican, hired 40 staffers this way and said it is not unusual for governors to use creative ways to hold onto staff.
This investigation is separate from the so-called “Buffalo billions” case and the bribery charges involving one-time Cuomo aide Joe Percoco.
No criminal charges have been filed in connection with this investigation focusing on staffing in the Executive Chamber.