New York, 2021-12-14 14:33:00. Ex-governor Cuomo asked for book money to be refunded
ALBANI, New York – The New York Ethics Committee on Tuesday ordered former Governor Andrew Cuomo to forgo millions of dollars a publisher paid him to write a book about his response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Cuomo’s lawyer immediately called the measure unconstitutional and promised to fight.
Cuomo was directed to deliver proceeds earned from “American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic” within 30 days pursuant to a resolution approved 12-1 by the Joint Committee on Public Ethics.
The order came a month after the committee voted to revoke the moral approval it gave Cuomo when he entered into a $5.1 million US book deal.
“American Crisis” was released in October 2020, months before Cuomo resigned amid allegations that he sexually harassed at least 11 women. It is published by Crown Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House.
Commission staff approved the deal in July 2020, when his attorney told the commission that Cuomo had agreed not to use any state employees or resources to produce his book and that he would write it “entirely in his own time.” But later there were complaints about the use of state property, resources, and employees to prepare, write, edit and publish the book.
Cuomo acknowledged that state employees assisted with tasks including editing the manuscript. But he claimed that these employees were volunteering their own time.
Cuomo’s camp immediately challenged the commission’s authority, and set up what would be a protracted legal battle.
“JCOPE’s actions today are unconstitutional and beyond its authority and appear to be motivated by political interests rather than facts and law,” Cuomo’s attorney Jim McGuire said in a prepared statement. If they seek to implement this measure, we will see them in court.”
A spokesperson for the attorney general’s office, which will enforce the order, said they are reviewing the committee’s vote and “identify the best way forward.”
The commission’s order hinges in part on declaring that its retroactive revocation of its prior approval of the book’s deal means Cuomo “is not legally entitled to retain the compensation paid to him, in any manner, for his outside activities relating to the book.”
He did not specify an amount, but says he owes the state an amount equal to any compensation he received.
Recovery efforts can be complicated, in part because Cuomo has already disbursed $1.5 million to a charity and trust fund for his three daughters.
Cuomo revealed in May that he had taken a $3.1 million advance to write the book and that he would earn another $2 million over the next two years under the publishing contract. Cuomo spokesman Richard Azopardi had then said that after taxes and expenses, Cuomo made $1.5 million on the book last year, with a donation of $500,000 of profits to United Way, New York state. The rest was placed in a trust fund for his daughters.
Cuomo and Crown Publishing Group spokespeople did not respond to questions Tuesday about whether Cuomo had received money for the book beyond the initial $3.1 million.
A separate state council investigation released last month found evidence that Cuomo, who resigned in August, his employees spent extended periods of time on the project.
Junior staff and senior investigators told that they were required to perform writers’ tasks during their workday, including taking dictations, printing and handing out documents, and attending meetings with agents and publishers. The legislative report said a top state official sent and received 1,000 emails about the book.
Azopardi said the allegations were false.
“This is political hypocrisy and duplicity at its worst. Governor Cuomo received an opinion and advice from JCOPE that government resources could not be used – and were not – and any employee who assisted with this project did so on their own time which was reflected in their schedules.”
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