Disgraced former New York Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo isn’t happy about a near-unanimous vote from a state ethics panel this week ordering him to return $5.1 million in proceeds from his COVID ‘leadership’ book, and he’s letting committee members know that.
Cuomo lashed out at the state’s Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) after members voted 12-1 to demand he return the money from the tome, “American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic,” widely criticized at the time for a claim of victory over a virus that continued to kill tens of thousands of Americans, including New Yorkers.
The statement came via Rich Azzopardi, Cuomo’s spokesman, on Tuesday.
“This is political hypocrisy and duplicity at its worst,” Azzopardi said. “Governor Cuomo received a JCOPE opinion and advice of counsel stating that government resources could not be used — and they weren’t — and any staffer who assisted in this project did so on their own time, which was reflected on their timesheets.
“If Speaker Heastie, Majority Leader Stewart-Cousins, and Governor Hochul’s JCOPE appointees have created a new standard whereby government staffers cannot volunteer their own time for non-governmental purposes, they should all be equally prosecuted under the same standard and be forced to repay the state for volunteer work on their re-election campaigns,” Azzopardi continued.
Following the ethics panel’s decision, Cuomo is required to return the millions he earned from the book to the state by next month after a majority of members came to the conclusion that he violated promises not to utilize state resources and state government staffers for the manuscript. The resolution was written by the panel’s commissioner, David McNamara.
The former governor, said McNamara, “lacked the legal authority to engage in outside activity and receive compensation in regard to the book,” the New York Post reported.
“Gov. Cuomo is not legally entitled to retain compensation … for any form of outside activity related to the book,” McNamara said.
In addition to the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Brooklyn, New York Attorney General Letitia James is looking into Cuomo’s book deal.
Throughout the summer of 2020, Cuomo enjoyed glowing press coverage regarding his handling of the pandemic, punctuated by daily press conferences in which he touted his responses. But he also came under fire for a March order requiring the state’s nursing homes and eldercare facilities to accept COVID-sickened patients even though experts knew early on the virus was more dangerous to older people with preexisting health conditions. Follow-on analyses estimated that decision cost thousands of New Yorkers their lives.
Then, Cuomo was caught up in a sexual harassment scandal after nearly a dozen women filed complaints accusing him of inappropriate contact and other actions which James’ office ultimately found to be violations of both federal and state laws, though her office declined to prosecute.
Cuomo resigned in August.
The former governor’s younger brother, former CNN host Chris Cuomo, also became embroiled in the sex scandal. Documents revealed that he was more involved as an unofficial legal adviser to his brother than he revealed while still at the network, leading to his ouster.
That scandal resulted in the loss of a book deal of his own; HarperCollins canceled his forthcoming tome, “Deep Denial.”
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