Skip to comments.FBI investigating Cuomo office's hiring practices
Posted on 12/08/2017 4:12:44 PM PST by Signalman
The FBI is investigating the Cuomo administration's practice of hiring employees to work in the governor's office, while actually paying them through various state agencies and public authorities, the Times Union has learned.
The practice of hiring pricey political appointees to work for the Executive Chamber but paying them through other entities has allowed Cuomo and prior governors to increase the size of their staffs while escaping criticism for inflating the Executive Chamber budget.
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.
An analysis by the Times Union a year ago found that more than 40 percent of the Executive Chamber staff was actually on the payroll of public authorities or agencies. At the time, 89 of 209 Executive Chamber employees were on agency or authority budget lines.
That trend accelerated when Cuomo announced 27 new hires or promotions last March. All but a handful of the hires were to Executive Chamber jobs, but the Executive Chamber was actually paying just five of those people. Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi said that the administration had received a "document subpoena" months ago and that it had "cooperated, providing necessary documents and personnel files." The investigation is coming out of the Eastern District U.S. Attorney's office.
"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. Azzopardi said the FBI's line of questioning was "absurd."
Under Cuomo, in some instances the positions held by Executive Chamber officials have had a correlation with the entity paying them. In other instances there seems have been little link between the work being done and an employee's source of income.
Take well-paid Cuomo speechwriters, Tom Topousis and Jamie Malanowski.
Although paid to pen speeches for the governor, Topousis was hired in 2015 at a $125,000 salary as a "special assistant" at the Office of Children and Family Services, a child protective services agency. Malanowski's $120,000 salary, meanwhile, has been paid by the Affordable Housing Corp., a quasi-governmental agency that helps subsidize affordable housing projects. One of the March hires announced by Cuomo was Joel Wertheimer, who in his prior job in the Obama White House was coordinating and reviewing briefing materials sent to the president.
In his new post as staff secretary for Cuomo, Wertheimer was hired on a $120,000 salary on the budget of the Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services, an agency meant to help people recover from addiction. He left the Cuomo administration in September, seven months after being hired, payroll records show.
In March, Cuomo also announced the hiring of Robert Gibbon, a former state Senate staffer and an attorney. He was retained as assistant counsel to the governor for transportation at a salary of $105,000.
Yet Gibbon was hired for a budget slot on the payroll of the Justice Center, an agency meant to investigate allegations of abuse and neglect at homes for the disabled. After the Times Union inquired about Gibbon's status, a Cuomo spokesman said he would be moved to the payroll of the quasi-governmental Thruway Authority. Although this hiring practice has been especially widespread under Cuomo, it far predates his tenure. In response to the Times Union's inquiries, the Cuomo administration provided a number of examples. 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. News reports have also raised questions about such budget sleight-of-hand in several other states, including Illinois and New Jersey, and various White House administrations. Even Department of Justice employees themselves have been detailed to the White House.
The Cuomo hiring practice is also a sidebar to the January corruption trial of former top Cuomo aide Joe Percoco and three others. The Manhattan U.S. Attorney's office alleges that Percoco accepted bribes from Syracuse developer Steven F. Aiello, a co-defendant in the upcoming trial. One of the government favors done in exchange for bribes, according to prosecutors, was Percoco facilitating a $5,000 raise for Aiello's son in a new job in Cuomo's office in 2015.
The son, Steven L. Aiello, was actually paid his $62,000 salary through the Division of Military and Naval Affairs, which manages New York's military forces, records show. He has since left the administration.
Unlike some other groups, we Americans with Italian heritage (Pop was born in Naples) don’t vote based on a vowel at the end of a name.
My father (god rest his soul) HATED the father, and I HATE the son.
Or course Rudy is a hero on Staten Island.
Cuomo, we spit on him.
De Blasio??? Don’t even get me started.
My nephews and nieces feel almost no connection to that heritage.
And that’s the way it’s supposed to be.
I’m sure he sees it differently...
Next time I’m in NJ, I’m crossing the outerbridge and buying you a drink.
I never refuse an offer like that :)
But I couldn’t let you pay 13 dollars for the bridge.
It’s ONLY (sarcasm) 5.50 for Staten Islanders.
Verrazano is a cheap 17. Toll was supposed to disappear after the bridge was paid off. That would have been about 40 years ago.
All these useless gumshoes do is investigate. Charging someone is not in their job description.
I knew a man who was born in Italy. Came over here when he was 3. Mussolini/Italy had a warrant out for his arrest as a draft dodger up until the 60’s.
“De Blasio??? Dont even get me started”
I don’t think that is his real name. A stage name.Not even a human.
And the NY AG is not investigating this because? Oh, that’s right, because he’s another Dim.
This is the same FBI that investigated Hillary Clinton and trumped up charges on Donald Trump. I dont think the Cuomo has anything to worry about.
Wow. That’s an unusual story. I would not be thrilled to be tried in Italy for anything. It is a confusing and emotional court process. Unfortunately the emotions are shown by the prosecutors and defense too often. And you are right about the Blasio. He took his mother’s last name in a cynical ploy to get Italian American votes and it didn’t work.
And but he won by an incredible margin which embarrasses the hell out of me but I don’t really consider Staten Island part of New York. The problems the other boroughs have we do not. Except for taxes of course!
Thank goodness property taxes are relatively low considering the Northeast.
Sorry. Didn’t mean to torture you with my rambling :-)
In prior years, that headline would have piqued my interest. With today’s underwhelming FBI performance on most visible levels.
Sadly, I no longer see them as the honorable institution they once were. To me they are no different than the kneeling NFL.
Both have fallen.
Is this legal??
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