New York's comptroller formally authorized the state attorney general's office to investigate whether embattled Gov. Andrew Cuomo's office misused state resources to write and promote his pandemic book, according to a letter obtained by NBC News.
Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli asked Attorney General Letitia James in a letter dated April 13 to look into "the use of property, services or resources of the state for personal purposes, private business purposes or other compensated non-governmental purposes by the Executive Chamber including, but not limited to, the drafting, editing, sale and promotion of the Governor's book and any related financial or business transactions."
The letter was first reported by The New York Times, which reported last month that the governor's office used junior staff members and senior aides to work on "American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the Covid-19 Pandemic," Cuomo's retelling of the battle against the coronavirus.
"We can confirm that we have received this referral, but we won't comment further on an ongoing investigation at this time," James' office said in an emailed statement. In most cases, a referral triggers an investigation.
Cuomo has insisted that any work done by government employees on the book, details of which remain clouded in secrecy, was voluntary, allowing that some minor work may have been "incidental." A spokesman has said any work on the book was "in compliance with state ethics laws and done on their personal time."
At a news conference Monday, Cuomo declined to disclose how much he earned from his book deal — reports have said $4 million — saying the figure will be revealed in his income tax filing, according to Spectrum News. He again defended using government workers and claimed that they volunteered.
Cuomo, a third-term Democrat, also faces a political maelstrom regarding sexual harassment allegations from several women. He has denied all of the allegations and apologized for incidents in which, he said, he did not know at the time that he was making women uncomfortable. Democrats throughout the state have called for Cuomo to resign; he has refused and is expected to run for a fourth term. James is also investigating the sexual misconduct allegations.
DiNapoli, a Democrat, said in his letter that under state law, James, also a Democrat, now has the "authority to prosecute the person or persons believed to have committed the same and any crime or offense arising out of such investigation or prosecution or both," which could include impaneling a grand jury or "whatever other action you deem appropriate."