ALBANY — The state attorney general is investigating whether Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo broke the law by using state resources and personnel in producing his most recent book.
Attorney General Letitia James received formal authorization from State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli in a letter sent last week but released Monday. James' office declined further comment but acknowledged there now is an "ongoing investigation."
The new probe adds yet another investigation to the list for the embattled governor, who already is facing probes regarding sexual harassment, COVID-19 testing and nursing homes.
DiNapoli formally sent authorization to James regarding reports that Cuomo junior and senior aides worked on "American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic," the governor's account of his administration’s handling of the virus.
The New York Times, which first reported on March 31 details of Cuomo staff working on the book, first reported DiNapoli’s referral letter. Per state law, James needed formal authorization before looking into the matter.
In the letter, DiNapoli, who also is a Democrat, asked James to "investigate the alleged commission of any indictable offense" related to the improper use of public resources for the book "including, but not limited to, in the drafting, editing, sale and promotion of the Governor's book and any related financial or business transactions."
Previously, the governor’s office said any staff work on his book was voluntary while saying some minor work might have been incidental. Subsequent reports say Cuomo staffers are disputing the work was done voluntarily.
A Cuomo aide called the investigation authorization "absurd."
"The idea there was criminality involved here is patently absurd on its face and is just the furthering of a political pile-on," Rich Azzopardi, Cuomo senior aide, said. "Any state official who volunteered to assist on this project did so on his or her own time and without the use of state resources. To the extent a document was printed, it was incidental."
Cuomo reportedly received a multimillion-dollar contract for the book — published when he was receiving rave reviews for pandemic management and before the controversies started. He has yet to disclose exactly how much, saying he would unveil his personal income tax filing in May.