Cuomo will not give up his $5 million payday book windfall without a battle, according to his lawyer
Andrew Cuomo is prepared to take on the ethics panel he established to protect his $5.1 million payday pandemic-windfall book contract.
Cuomo’s lawyer threatened to sue the loans over the weekend state’s ethics board on Wednesday. He accused the officials of acting “for improper political objectives” in trying to recoup the money he earned for his written-on-the-job book on the COVID-19 pandemic.
The importance of safeguarding all relevant materials
Cuomo lawyer James McGuire publicly put the Joint Panel on Public Ethics’ commissioners and staffers “on alert that they must safeguard all materials” relevant to their examination of the contentious book sale in a letter to the commission chairman.
JCOPE had infringed on Cuomo’s “rights to due process protections under the US and New York Constitutional provisions, and subject JCOPE and its commissioners to accountability under [federal civil rights legislation],” according to McGuire.
“To preserve his rights and avoid further violations of JCOPE’s authority, the Governor will seek the assistance of the courts,” he wrote.
“JCOPE’s actions suggest, at the very least, the logical assumption that it acted for unlawful political objectives,” McGuire continued.
“We wouldn’t have taken the action if we didn’t feel it was right,” said JCOPE Chairman Jose Nieves, who was appointed by Gov. Kathy Hochul following Cuomo’s resignation over sexual harassment claims. Nieves said he hadn’t received McGuire’s letter yet and couldn’t comment loan further.
Who approved the payday deal?
Cuomo’s lucrative payday deal for “American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic” in July 2020 was approved by a key JCOPE staffer.
However, JCOPE’s commissioners revoked Cuomo’s clearance in November by a 12-1 decision, citing Cuomo’s violation of an agreement not to utilize government loan employees to help write the book, which he maintains they did willingly.
JCOPE also requested an investigation into Cuomo’s deal’s first approval.
Cuomo’s profits were ordered to be turned over to the board by a 12-1 vote last month. William Fisher, a Cuomo appointee, was the lone dissenter in both decisions.
Lack of evidence on specific breaches
However, Attorney General Letitia James’ office warned JCOPE two days after the second vote that the order could not be implemented. This is because it didn’t disclose specific breaches of state law or specify the amount of cash Cuomo made that’s “attributable to fines and disgorgement.”
JCOPE was “empowered and compelled” to act, Nieves said, and James was instructed to “support the commission’s efforts to pursue a speedy civil process that will hold the former governor accountable.”
Nevertheless, one JCOPE commissioner has expressed concern that the former governor’s lawsuit could uncover damning details about how he received the agency’s original staff approval.
Commissioner Gary Lavine stated last month, “I don’t think we have all the details on the book sale.”
“The book contract is scrutinized every time it is the subject of legal action.”