The Governor of New York State hasn’t been indicted for anything yet, but nearly every rock which gets kicked over in Andrew Cuomo’s vicinity seems to reveal more roaches scurrying away from the light. After a pack of his aides and associates were indicted last week by Preet Bharara, the Albany Times Union began digging into the background of some of the state executive branch staff and almost immediately turned up something interesting. One of the indicted individuals, Steven F. Aiello, has a son who is employed by the Governor as a senior policy adviser. The son, Steven L. Aiello, had been in the position for roughly a year after moving over from the state’s affordable housing agency. But here’s the funny thing… the younger Aiello doesn’t show up on the payroll roster for the Governor’s office. He’s actually assigned to (and paid by) the Division of Military and Naval Affairs.
As the Times Union discovered upon further inspection, Aiello’s case was hardly unique. In fact, nearly half of the people working for the Governor were on the payroll of other agencies or “quasi-governmental entities.”
Observers of state government say the practice of loading up the governor’s staff with people not officially on its payroll has been ongoing for decades. E.J. McMahon, research director of the fiscally conservative Empire Center for Public Policy, said it has quietly allowed governors to expand their staffs while escaping criticism for increasing their budgets. Still, the full extent has not been previously known.
“It’s an accountability and transparency issue,” McMahon said. “It’s done so that the Executive Chamber staff doesn’t look so big. That’s the only conceivable reason they’d do it.”
The governor’s office recently provided a list of the 209 people it says work for the chamber, in response to an open records request by the Times Union.
But recently provided payroll records from Comptroller Tom DiNapoli’s office state that the Executive Chamber itself is only paying 120 employees.
So 89 of 209 staffers for the Governor’s office are not on their payroll. Is that illegal? Well… technically no. (Or at least it doesn’t appear so.) But these are all positions which are being paid for by the taxpayers. How fat is the budget of the Division of Military and Naval Affairs that they can have no-show employees on their payroll just so Cuomo can keep their names off his balance sheet? And if the DMNA’s budget is really all that fat, why hasn’t it been trimmed down to save the taxpayers some money?
Other examples abound. One of Cuomo’s speechwriters, Tom Topousis, is collecting a $125K salary which is great work if you can get it. Except he’s being paid by the Office of Children and Family Services. But hey, I’m sure the widows and orphans are doing just fine without that money, right? Tom’s speechwriting colleagues, Jamie Malanowski, is collecting a similar salary, but his pay is coming from the Affordable Housing Corp. Not to worry… I’m sure all the low income families find their current hovels to be just dandy.
Forty percent of Cuomo’s staff is being paid in this fashion and nobody knew about it until the local press corps began doing some digging. This is taxpayer money he’s spending, and when the citizens’ representatives submit a budget and have it approved, don’t the voters have the right to understand where all that money goes and what it’s being spent on? This gives me flashbacks to all of the book juggling which went on at the State Department to keep Huma Abedin on the payroll. Even if this doesn’t rise to the level of being a crime, there’s something awfully fishy going on at the Governor’s office and we’re going to need more than a little sunshine to clear out all the mold.