Although New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo claims that his staffers’ work on his book, "American Crisis" was voluntary, some current and former employees of his say that working on the for-profit book "was considered a part of your job," the Times Union reports.
Several current and former staffers, speaking anonymously, told the newspaper that in Cuomo’s office there was a "clear expectation that we would do political work to help with his campaign and run the governor’s personal errands in the Executive Chamber."
They added: "It was not optional. It was considered a part of your job. Everyone knew that you did what was asked of you and opting-out was never really an option."
State employees, including the governor, are prohibited by New York law from using governmental resources to help their private business ventures.
Cuomo senior advisor Richard Azzopardi said last week that "as is permissible and consistent with ethical requirements, people who volunteered on this project did so on their own time."
But a source with direct knowledge of the work done on the book by a junior member of Cuomo’s staff said it is "patently ridiculous" that this particular person had volunteered, and added that their work on the book was performed during their regular workday at the same time as their daily government duties.
This work included taking notes based on the governor’s dictation, which were then typed to be included in the book. Eventually, Cuomo began using an app to transcribe his statements. Following the book’s publication, the Times Union reports that staffers were tasked with getting Cuomo to sign copies of the book and then mailing them back to people who had requested that their copies be autographed.
The newspaper notes that records from the state comptroller’s office and the Empire Center for Public Policy show that at least two junior Cuomo staffers who worked on the book received substantial overtime pay in 2020, but the governor’s office said that this was unrelated to their work on the book.
"Overtime is requested to help assist in the operation of state government," Cuomo’s office said.
"Any state official that advised the governor on the book was voluntary, in compliance with state ethics laws and done on their personal time," Azzopardi added. "Every effort was made to ensure that no state resources were used in connection with this project – to the extent an aide did something like printing out a document, it appears incidental."
He also disputed the claims that junior staffers worked to transcribe parts of the book, saying that only senior staffer Stephanie Benton, who is the Director of Governor’s Offices, did this work on a volunteer basis.
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