Albany, NY – Former Governor Andrew M. Cuomo to forgo millions of dollars he made from his 2020 memoirs on pandemics after the state ethics board voted on Tuesday to revoke his license to the book.
The Joint Committee on Public Ethics accused Cuomo of essentially obtaining approval under false pretenses, including breaching his promise not to use state resources to complete the memoranda.
“Contrary to representations made on behalf of Governor Cuomo and not disclosed to the Committee, State property, resources, and personnel, including staff volunteers, have been used in connection with the preparation, writing, editing and publication of the book,” according to 12 to 1 approved.
The committee also noted several distortions in Mr. Cuomo’s request for approval by the ethics committee, including the nature of the book’s subject matter and the length of the project at the time of the request. He also indicated that the full financial details of the deal and the contract were withheld from the committee.
Legal experts said the governor is likely to have the opportunity to resubmit an application to the board of directors for approval; If the council rejects Mr. Cuomo’s request, it can order him to forego the book’s profits or face separate penalties.
In a statement, Mr Cuomo called the decision “the height of hypocrisy” and a “political game”, reiterating that any employee who helped with the book project did so in their own time.
The statement added that sanctioning its reliance on the approval of the Board of Directors was unfair, saying: “The governor cannot be held responsible for internal decisions related to stepping down and approvals issued by JCOPE.”
Mr Cuomo’s attorney, Jim McGuire, said he looks forward to “vigorously challenging any efforts by JCOPE to enforce this baseless and improper decision in court”.
Mr Cuomo asked the government’s ethics committee in July 2020 for permission to write a book on his leadership during the crisis, just as New York began slowly emerging from the pandemic’s brutal first wave. A commission employee reviewed the application and issued an authorization; Not voted.
For Mr Cuomo, who resigned in August, the book was a way to cash in on the national notoriety he had gained after New York became the epicenter of the pandemic.
For months, Mr Cuomo refused to reveal how much his publisher, Crown, had paid, even as investigators were checking whether he had illegally used state resources to write and promote the book.
That changed in May, when his financial disclosures became public, indicating that he was expected to earn more than $5 million from the book. Government officials said at the time that he received $3.12 million last year and should have received another $2 million over the next two years.
His spokesman said Mr. Cuomo received about $1.5 million in payments last year, after taxes and expenses; He donated $500,000 to a charity and put the rest into a fund for his three daughters.
The state attorney general’s office is investigating Mr. Cuomo’s use of state resources to write and edit his book. The New York Times and others reported that senior aides were involved in producing the manuscript and even attended meetings with the publisher—a possible violation of state law prohibiting the use of public resources for personal gain.
“I think if he applied again, he would have to prove that there would be no violation of the State Resource Use Act, which, since the book is already written, violated that requirement,” said Evan Davis, a former counselor to Mario Cuomo and former president of the New York City Bar: “It must be very difficult to do that.”
Cuomo’s 320-page diary has been criticized for having begun work on it just as his top aides rewrote a major report from the state health department to conceal the true number of deaths in nursing homes during the pandemic.
In fact, a state assembly investigation is looking into whether there is any link between his administration’s decline in the number of deaths in nursing homes and his attempt to use the book to polish his image as a hero during the pandemic.
The book, titled “American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic,” turned into a headache for Crown earlier this year as Mr Cuomo plunged into other scandals, including allegations of sexual harassment that led to his resignation.
It became a commercial disappointment, and in March, Crown canceled the promotion and any plans for a paperback edition, raising questions about whether the publisher would pay a full upfront to wallets. At the time, Crown cited an ongoing investigation by federal prosecutors into Mr Cuomo’s handling of nursing home data as a reason to stop “active support” for the book.
Crown did not respond to requests for comment on Tuesday.
This is the third time that the commission – Which has been the subject of widespread scrutiny, with Governor Cathy Hochul saying she would like to “blow up [it] up” and to start over — she tried to revoke her prior approval of Mr. Cuomo’s request.
State Senator Liz Krueger, who has been an advocate of ethics reform, cautioned that Tuesday’s decision should not be read as a vindication of the board.
“For it to work at all, the governor must first step down, appoint the right people, and then you have to try three times before they do it right?” asked Mrs. Krueger.
“This does nothing to convince me that JCOPE does not need to cancel and start again.”