State Watch

NY ethics commission orders Andrew Cuomo to return book proceeds

AP-Richard Drew

A New York ethics board has ordered former Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) to return the proceeds he received for his book about the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Joint Commission on Public Ethics voted 12 to 1 Tuesday on a resolution that will require Cuomo to give the profits he made from his book, titled “American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic,” to the office of New York Attorney General Letitia James (D).

Cuomo has 30 days to return the funds, according to the resolution.

 

If Cuomo “fails to make timely payment” as ordered by the commission, the resolution says “enforcement of such order is hereby referred to the Attorney General.”

James will be charged with “determin[ing] the identity of the appropriate recipient(s) of the Book Proceeds under the law, and distribut[ing] such funds accordingly,” according to the resolution.

The New York Times reported in May that Cuomo was set to receive a total of $5.1 million for his book.

The resolution comes nearly one month after the commission voted 12 to 1 to revoke its approval of Cuomo’s book deal. The ethics panel determined that Cuomo violated the agreement because state property, resources and personnel were used to prepare, write, edit and publish the book.

The commission also found that the book breached the agreement because it was “a work that was developed as part of Governor Cuomo’s job responsibilities and is substantially related to his job responsibilities.” The commission’s approval hinged on the book being “sufficiently unrelated to his job responsibilities so that authorship or the advice or material provided in the book could not be viewed as part of his job.”

“The Approval Request Letter for the Book submitted on behalf of Governor Cuomo contained material omissions and misrepresentations, and that each of said material omissions and misrepresentations, individually, constitutes a ground for revocation,” the commission wrote in a resolution last month.

Following Tuesday’s order to return the proceeds from the book, however, may prove to be a difficult task, according to Spectrum 1 News. The former governor reportedly funneled $1 million of his profits into a blind trust fund for his daughters and made a donation of $500,000 to the United Way in the Capital Region.

According to Cuomo’s tax returns, which he made public in May, he had not received all of the $5.1 million he was subject to as per his contract with his publisher at that time, Spectrum 1 News reported.

Jim McGuire, an attorney for Cuomo, said the commission’s actions “are unconstitutional, exceed its own authority and appear to be driven by political interests rather than the facts and the law.”

“Should they seek to enforce this action, we’ll see them in court,” he added in a statement to The Hill.

The New York Assembly’s Judiciary Committee wrote in a report last month that Cuomo had utilized state resources, such as government personnel, to assist with his book project. The former governor and his staff, however, have argued that government staff who helped with the book were contributing on a volunteer basis.

Cuomo resigned from his post as New York governor on Aug. 24 after an investigation by James’s office concluded that Cuomo had sexually harassed multiple women.

This story was updated at 7:21 p.m.

Tags Andrew Cuomo Joint Commission on Public Ethics Letitia James

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