New York agency pulls approval of Cuomo’s $5.1 million book deal on managing COVID-19 crisis

New York agency pulls approval of Cuomo’s $5.1 million book deal on managing COVID-19 crisis

(The Center Square) – After failing in three previous attempts, New York’s public watchdog agency finally voted Tuesday to rescind the approval of a $5.1 million book deal for former Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

FILE - NY Andrew Cuomo 11-22-2020
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo holds a COVID-19 briefing Nov. 22, 2020, in New York City.Flickr / Gov. Andrew Cuomo

Cuomo got approval from the staff of the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) in July 2020 to write “American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic.” However, the 12-1 vote Tuesday means Cuomo, who resigned in August amid a sexual harassment scandal, would need to ask again for JCOPE to give its blessing.

If the commission does not approve it, Cuomo would have to give the $5.1 million advance back and may face fines from the agency.

While Cuomo stepped down because of the claims of harassment, he faced other investigations as well. That included claims the book was written using state resources, something that is not allowed. The book deal is being investigated by Attorney General Letitia James and was also part of the Assembly Judiciary Committee’s impeachment investigation.

The alleged use of state resources, among other concerns, was cited in JCOPE’s resolution Tuesday.

The resolution said Cuomo’s book violated three of JCOPE’s nine conditions the July 2020 approval letter stipulated. The commission gave its approval because it stated that Cuomo was “seeking to author a book.” However, the commission later discovered the book was nearly complete when it received the approval request.

In addition, the book was also not to be a work that was related to his job responsibilities.

Commissioner William Fisher, who was appointed to the panel by Cuomo, disagreed with that statement.

“I don’t believe that it’s a fair reading of the book to view the advice or material provided in it as part of the governor’s job,” he said.

Still, had that statement been stricken from the resolution, Fisher, the lone no vote, said he would have been willing to support it.

In a statement after the vote, Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi said the current JCOPE members, some of whom were appointed by Gov. Kathy Hochul, were acting outside of their authority.

“It is the height of hypocrisy for Hochul and the legislature’s appointees to take this position, given that these elected officials routinely use their own staff for political and personal assistance on their own time,” Azzopardi said.

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