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FBI probes some Cuomo hiring practices

According to published reports, some of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s hiring practices are the subject of an FBI investigation.

The Albany Times Union first reported that the FBI is looking at Cuomo’s longstanding practice of hiring employees for his office but paying them through other state agencies.

The custom dates back to at least the days of former Gov. George Pataki and is seen as a way to, on paper, keep down costs in the governor’s office while benefiting from more staff.

According to the newspaper, federal agents already have interviewed several of more than two dozen recent hires, including former Obama administration aides whom Cuomo employed shortly after the 2016 elections.

A spokesman for Cuomo, Rich Azzopardi, called the probe “absurd” and sent documentation showing the practice is common in other states and even in the federal government, including the White House.

“In this environment, anyone can ask about anything, but the fact is the longstanding practice of detailing staff from agencies to work in the Executive Chamber dates back over 50 years to at least the Rockefeller administration and extends to the White House and the federal Department of Justice,” Azzopardi said in a statement. “Given that the Federal Department of Justice and the White House have a long history of utilizing this practice, perhaps the FBI can investigate them when this charade is over."

Azzopardi says the practice is legal because all of the agencies involved are part of the same executive branch.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of public radio stations in New York state. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.