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State ethics panel pulls approval for $5.1 million Cuomo pandemic book

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announces he will resign in this screen grab taken from a video released by the Office of the NY Governor, in New York, U.S., August 10, 2021. Office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo/Handout via REUTERS

The state’s ethics oversight body revoked its previous approval for ex-Governor Andrew Cuomo’s pandemic book Tuesday, Nov. 16.

The Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) overwhelmingly passed a resolution to rescind its staff’s letter from July 17, 2020, for conditionally granting Cuomo to author the book “American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic,” which landed the former governor a $5.1 million publishing deal.

Cuomo violated JCOPE’s terms by using staff to help write and edit the book, even though his lawyer’s application for permission specifically stated he would write it on his own time and without the use of state resources or personnel.

The former governor and his reps have repeatedly contended his staff only “volunteered” to work on the book.

The State Attorney General Letitia James is currently conducting a criminal investigation into whether Cuomo’s use of state resources violated any laws.

The resolution passed also said that Cuomo’s request made several misrepresentations, including that it would just be a continuation of his previous memoir “All Things Possible” and that it would be sufficiently unrelated to his duties as governor so that it could not be viewed as part of his job.

JCOPE voted 12-1 to pass the measure, with the sole vote against the proposal Tuesday coming from commissioner Bill Fisher, a Cuomo appointee and retired Deputy County Executive for Onondaga County.

“I won’t comment on the literary merits of the book or the value of the lessons its author attempts to convey to the reader,” Fisher said, “but I will say that 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.”

“It’s not a series of speeches he gave to the state legislature, it’s not the transcripts from his daily press conferences, nor a simple recounting of what the governor’s office did during the period of time covered by the book,” so Fisher.

Cuomo can still re-apply for an authorization but if he’s denied, the commissioners could make him repay millions in profits to publisher Crown New York, reported the Times Union.

In a statement, longtime Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi said the move was the “height of hypocrisy” and is “nothing more than Albany political corruption at its worst.”

“JCOPE wants to rescind an approval that was relied upon to play a political game and that means a JCOPE opinion cannot be relied upon by anyone and is subject to political winds,” Azzopardi said. “They are truly a J-JOKE.”

Governor Kathy Hochul said Tuesday that the commission “should have been doing their job from the beginning.”

“They should be doing their job, period. They should have done their job from the beginning they should continue to do their job and I’m going to continue overhauling our ethics procedures,” Hochul told reporters after at unrelated press conference. “JCOPE operates independently from me, that’s the way it’s supposed to be and that’s the way it’s going to be under my administration.”

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