Former Surgeon General Called a Shopaholic Tyrant
Novello probed for abuse of later office
By Jason Farago,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 27, 2009 6:40 AM CST
Antonia Novello, formerly surgeon general, is accused of staggering abuses of power while serving as New York health commissioner.   (Wikimedia)
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(Newser) – Antonia Novello, the nation's first female surgeon general, has been accused of years of abuse of power at a later job—turning her staff at New York's health department into her personal chauffeurs and assistants. As the New York Times writes, a report released today depicts Novello as a shopaholic tyrant, demanding that civil servants buy her groceries, water her houseplants, and drive her and her family across the state—racking up some $48,000 in state overtime along the way.

One claim alleges Novello bought a heavy Buddha statue, then ordered a health department worker to move it to her apartment—only to send him back days later to move it again. A Medicaid fraud investigator claims she made him drive her to Manhattan department stores, a 300 mile round-trip journey from Albany; while a guard says he drove her from Newark Airport to the capital on Christmas Day. New York's inspector general has referred the case to a district attorney, who may bring felony charges.