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Andrew Cuomo ordered to return $5.1 million from book profits

Former New York governor, Andrew Cuomo, has been found to violate ethics laws by using state resources to write his book “American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the Covid-19 Pandemic”. 

Directions to turn over any proceeds from the book within 30 days has been issued through a decision approved by the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) with a vote of 21-1. 

Drafted by Senate Republican appointee, Commissioner David McNamara, the resolution states that Cuomo “lacked the legal authority to engage in outside activity and receive compensation in regard to the book”.

It adds: “Gov. Cuomo is not legally entitled to retain compensation … for any form of outside activity related to the book”

Cuomo’s attorney, Jim McGuire retaliated to the decision, declaring the action “unconstitutional” and assuring a legal battle if enforcement is attempted. 

He continued that the resolution did “exceed its own authority and appear to be driven by political interests rather than the facts and the law”.

Staff were allegedly instructed to carry out tasks like transcribing dictations, printing and delivery documents and attending meetings with agents and publishers, during working hours

Cuomo was granted approval of his book deal in July 2020 by the commission, after counsel guaranteed that he would not use any state employees or resources to put the American Crisis together and writing would be “entirely on his own time”. 

Accusations later came to light that both resources and personnel were used to research, write, edit, and publish this book. 

Staff were allegedly instructed to carry out tasks like transcribing dictations, printing and delivery documents and attending meetings with agents and publishers, during working hours. 

It was revealed in the legislative report that one senior state official had sent and received 1,000 emails in regard to the book. 

Cuomo has since acknowledged that state employees were involved in editing his manuscript but asserts that it was on a voluntary basis. 

The legal battle over the return of $5.1 million in profits has already been faced with several complications given the fact that Cuomo had donated $500,000 to a charity for Covid-19 efforts (United Way of New York State) and placed $1 million in a trust for his three daughters from the earnings. 

Cuomo’s spokesman, Richard Azzopardi, described JCOPE’s directive as “political hypocrisy and duplicity at its worst”, adding “any staffer who assisted on this project did so on their own time”. 

Proceeds have been ordered to be turned over to state Attorney General, Letitia James, who would then determine where and to whom the profits should be distributed.

Contrastingly, nursing home families and others who lost close friends and family members during the Covid-19 pandemic have cheered for JCOPE’s decision

James previously over saw an investigation into claims of sexual harassment and inappropriate behaviour against the former governor earlier this year, with 11 women making allegations, enough to pressure Cuomo into a resignation

On the topic of JCOPE’s decision, David Grandeau, a former executive director of the state’s ethics agency stated: “All it [the law] says is JCOPE has the right to issue opinions and opinions are like a-holes, and in JCOPE’s case, there’s 13 of them. There’s just no authority to issue it.”

Grandeau argued that the ethics board were trying to compensate for having “rubber stamped” the book deal for over a year. He added: “When you have bad people running your ethics agency you end up with a governor that can get 5 million dollars by using state resources.”

Contrastingly, nursing home families and others who lost close friends and family members during the Covid-19 pandemic have cheered for JCOPE’s decision. 

The New York Post interviewed several of these supporters including Tracy Alvino, who lost her father, Daniel, to Covid-19 in a nursing home in Long Island. 

Cuomo has arguably already lost the battle in the court of public opinion, but we are yet to find out if that result will be mirrored legally

She said: “I’m super happy. It was a blood money book of lies written off the graves of 15,000 people.”

“I’m shocked JCOPE threw the book at him. JCOPE did the right thing. We’re used to seeing the little guy trampled and the elite being shielded and protected.”

Alvino added: “Cuomo has no more political cover. No more friends in Albany. Score one for the team of morals and ethics and everything that is just and right.”

What follows in this case will inevitably be compelling, as people on both sides cannot seem to come to a legal conclusion. Cuomo has arguably already lost the battle in the court of public opinion, but we are yet to find out if that result will be mirrored legally. 

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