New York’s ethics watchdog panel ordered disgraced ex-Gov. Andrew Cuomo to return the $5.1 million in profits from his pandemic book deal to the state next month.
The extraordinary resolution was approved Tuesday by the Joint Commission on Public Ethics in a 12-1 vote — coming a month after the ethics agency voted to revoke its prior approval allowing Cuomo to earn outside income from his book, “American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic” while he was still governor and New York was still battling the deadly viral bug.
JCOPE rescinded its approval after concluding that Cuomo violated pledges not to use state resources or government staffers to prepare the book.
The resolution, drafted by commissioner David McNamara, a Senate Republican appointee, said Cuomo now “lacked the legal authority to engage in outside activity and receive compensation in regard to the book” since JCOPE rescinded its approval.
“Gov. Cuomo is not legally entitled to retain compensation … for any form of outside activity related to the book,” McNamara said.
The panel found Cuomo’s book proceeds should be turned over to state Attorney General Letitia James — whose office’s investigative report forced the three-term Democrat’s resignation after substantiating a slew of accusations of mistreatment and harassment leveled against the disgraced ex-governor by current and former staffers.
“It is ordered that by no later than 30 days from the date of this resolution, Gov. Cuomo pay over to the attorney general of the State of New York an amount equal to the compensation paid to him for his outside activities related to the book,” the resolution says.
James would determine to whom the profits would be distributed — the state, the book publisher, or others.
Cuomo’s book deal also is being investigated by James, the FBI, and the Brooklyn US Attorney’s Office. The state Assembly Judiciary Committee’s impeachment report found that Cuomo used staffers extensively to help prepare the book — though he insisted the work was done voluntarily and legally.
Cuomo’s team was also accused of low-balling coronavirus-related nursing home deaths while he negotiated the book deal, leading to accusations he was trying to look better to make a quick buck off the tragedy.
Cuomo’s lawyer claimed JCOPE’s action was illegal and would challenge it in court.
“JCOPE’s actions today are unconstitutional, exceed its own authority and appear to be driven by political interests rather than the facts and the law,” said Cuomo attorney Jim McGuire.
“Should they seek to enforce this action, we’ll see them in court.”