Comptroller Tom DiNapoli last week requested Attorney General Letitia James launch an investigation into whether Gov. Andrew Cuomo used state resources when writing his book about the COVID-19 pandemic last year.
The letter from DiNapoli to James grants her office the authority to investigate the circumstances surrounding the book's development, editing and promotion and whether any government resources were used.
Rich Azzopardi, a senior advisor to Cuomo, denounced the letter as politically motivated.
“We have officially jumped the shark – the idea there was criminality involved here is patently absurd on its face and is just the furthering of a political pile-on," he 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. This is Albany politics at its worst -- both the Comptroller and the Attorney General have spoken to people about running for Governor and it is unethical to wield criminal referral authority to further political self-interest.”
The letter, first reported by The New York Times, was made public hours after Cuomo was asked about the book on Monday in a news conference and how much he earned from it.
Cuomo said government officials "volunteered" their time to help him review the contents and make sure it was accurate. He also declined to reveal how much he earned for the book, saying it would be made public when he releases his tax returns.
"What public official in the United States has released more taxes, personal income taxes, for a longer period of time, than I have?" Cuomo said on Monday at a news conference in New York City. "I'll bet you I have released my personal income taxes for the last 20 years. I will do that again this year and you will see everything you want to see in the personal income taxes."
Several government officials were said to have aided Cuomo with the book, including SUNY Chancellor Jim Malatras, who was the president of SUNY Empire at the time, as well as Melissa DeRosa, the top aide to the governor, advisor Gareth Rhodes, budget director Robert Mujica and counsel Beth Garvey.
Cuomo is facing a range of controversies this year, including allegations of sexual harassment and whether the state underreported where the deaths of nursing home residents occurred. Both are subjects of investigations by the attorney general's office and the U.S. Department of Justice.
The Democratic-led Assembly last month launched a broad impeachment investigation, including the harassment claims and nursing home deaths. Assembly Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Lavine last week confirmed the circumstances surrounding the book will be included in the investigation.