Back in March, Gov. Andrew Cuomo made 27 new hires.
Many of the new hires had previously worked in the Obama administration or on Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.
Those reading the political tea leaves believe it indicates Gov. Cuomo is gearing up for a presidential campaign in 2020.
But what should be of more concern to state taxpayers is that all but five of the 27 new hires are being paid through state agencies while actually working for the governor.
It appears to be a shell game that allows Gov. Cuomo to stock up political resources at taxpayers’ expense.
The Albany Times-Union first addressed this issue in November 2016 when it found that 40 percent of the Executive Chamber staff was on the staff of public authorities.
At worst, it is a scam to help the governor politically. At best, it is a lack of transparency that masks the size of the governor’s staff and how much taxpayer money he is spending.
While some of the March hires appeared to have duties related to the agencies that paid them, many do not.
The Times-Union pointed out that one well-paid Cuomo speechwriter was being paid $125,000 a year by the Office of Children and Family Services while another was being paid $120,000 by Affordable Housing Corp.
The Times-Union also reported last week that the FBI was conducting an investigation related to this practice and Gov. Cuomo’s office confirmed it had received a “document subpoena” and had provided the necessary files to the FBI.
We see this as a fraud on taxpayers with the administration attempting to hide how it is spending taxpayer money.
The T-U reported last year that the governor’s office provided a list of 209 people who work in the governor’s office. But payroll records from Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli’s office showed the Executive Chamber is only paying 120 of those employees.
For instance, one employee is being paid $120,000 a year by Alcoholism & Substance Abuse Services as a “staff secretary.”
Two more “senior policy advisers” are being paid a total of $210,000 by the State of New York Mortgage Agency.
And the Dormitory Authority is paying $150,000 for a director of special projects.
Sadly, the governor’s office dismissed the practice as no big deal, saying it dates back at least three decades.
For instance, when Gov. Mario Cuomo — the current governor’s father — announced he was cutting his staff 10 percent in 1984, what he really did was move dozens of employees off his payroll and into state agencies where they would be paid from other budgets.
Gov. George Pataki was guilty of the practice as well.
The “that’s the way it always has been done” defense is not a viable one in this instance.
The reason each government agency has its own budget is so it can be held accountable for the taxpayer money it spends.
The practice that Gov. Cuomo is continuing in the Executive Chamber makes a mockery of that accountability. We don’t know if he is doing anything illegal, but we do know it is wrong and should be stopped.