New York’s Ethics Commission still has work to do if it wants to seize the millions of dollars former Governor Andrew Cuomo earned writing a book about the COVID-19 pandemic, the prosecutor’s office said Thursday. General of the State in a letter.
The Joint Public Ethics Commission on Monday gave Cuomo 30 days to return all money he was paid by a publisher for his book “American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic.”
The commission, which exercises regulatory oversight over lobbyists and government officials, found that Cuomo improperly obtained help from state employees to write and promote the book, and therefore had to forfeit his revenue, which could reach $5.1 million.
In a letter to the commission Thursday, however, Atty. General Letitia James’ office said further steps needed to be taken before getting involved in raising the money.
JCOPE should produce an investigation report describing the laws violated and the sums and penalties it sought.
Any referral to the Attorney General’s office “should also include additional clarifications,” the letter states, including “a record of the administrative process and legal authority for the decision, the amount of fines and penalties imposed, and a determination regarding the appropriate amount of reimbursement attributable to the violation of the law.
Additionally, the committee would have to document any communications it may have had with Cuomo or his attorneys about the order, and then show that it had exhausted its efforts to collect the debt.
“It is therefore premature to ask the OAG to begin collection efforts before a request for payment is made to Mr. Cuomo or his attorney, and he has had an opportunity to respond to the request,” the statement said. letter, written by the Attorney General. general counsel, Larry Schimmel.
Cuomo’s attorney Jim McGuire, who had called the commission’s attempt to seize the book’s profits illegal, said the letter was another sign that JCOPE was acting outside the law.
“JCOPE’s actions violated fundamental constitutional rights and flagrantly exceeded its statutory authority,” McGuire said. “It is not at all surprising that the anarchy of JCOPE’s latest illegal action is recognized as such.”
“American Crisis” was released in October 2020, published by Crown Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House. Months later, Cuomo quit amid allegations that he sexually harassed at least 11 women.
Cuomo had won approval for his book deal in July 2020 by commission staff, after his attorney said he would not use any state personnel or resources to produce his book and would would write “entirely at his own pace”.
An investigation commissioned by the State Assembly concluded that, in fact, state resources and personnel were used to prepare, write, edit, and publish the book.
Cuomo spokespersons said all state employees who worked on the book did so on their own time, not during work hours.