The head of the state watchdog on Wednesday urged state Attorney General Letitia James to enforce his order to recover $5.1 million in accounting profits from the disgraced ex-governor. . Andrew Cuomo.
Jose Nieves, chairman of the Joint Commission on Public Ethics, sent a letter to GA General Counsel Larry Schimmel saying James can legally enforce JCOPE’s order for Cuomo to return book profits for his memoir COVID after violating an agreement not to use state resources — including government employees — to prepare for it.
Schimmel previously dismissed JCOPE’s order as illegal, saying the AG’s office could not enforce such an order without the ethics agency first thoroughly investigating and submitting findings of action. objectionable against Cuomo under the Public Officials Act.
Nieves responded in the letter. He said the facts were clear as the day Cuomo breached the agreement and sent the matter to James’ court.
“The Commission is empowered and required to refuse or revoke any authorization or approval sought or obtained by a public official, and to order corrective action where, as here, material misrepresentations have been made….”, Nieves said in the letter, a copy of which was obtained by The Post.
“There is no requirement that an investigation on substantial grounds be conducted in all circumstances as a predicate to the commission of an action in response to clearly established conditions imposed with respect to engagement in outside activities .”
JCOPE — accused for years of obstruction or murder in investigations of powerful state officials, including those close to Cuomo — approved a resolution Dec. 14 ordering Cuomo to return proceeds from his book, “American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic,” he wrote while still governor and New York was in the throes of the deadly coronavirus outbreak.
The action came a month after the ethics agency voted to revoke its earlier July 17, 2020 approval allowing Cuomo to publish the book, saying he violated an agreement not to use agency resources. State.
“We are calling on your office to support the commission’s efforts to seek expedited civil litigation that will hold the former governor accountable for his misrepresentations to the commission. [and] for his breach of the conditional approval letter” for the book contract, Nieves said.
Nieves, an appointee for Governor Kathy Hochul, sought to downplay any rifts with the attorney general’s office during an interview Wednesday night and later released a statement complaining of “unauthorized and inappropriate release of information by a person associated with JCOPE”.
But he defended JCOPE’s action regarding the disgorgement of profits from the Cuomo book.
“We have a difference of opinion on the outside activity rule. The law is clear. We can approve, disapprove or revoke a public official’s authority to engage in outside activity,” Nieves told the Post.
Nieves put the blame on Cuomo.
“The ball in Cuomo’s court as to whether he will evade the resolution we passed or do the right thing,” he said.
Last week, JCOPE Commissioner Gary Lavine accused James of engaging in a “deliberate stall” not to pursue Cuomo’s book.
“The Attorney General does not want to do anything to recover the money,” he alleged.
But it was the investigative report from AG James’ office released in August that forced Democrat Cuomo’s three-term resignation after he substantiated a series of accusations of abuse and harassment against the ex-governor. by current and former members of staff.
James also released a devastating report in January that found Cuomo had underestimated nursing home deaths from the coronavirus by 50% as he negotiated his book deal. Family members of nursing home residents lost to COVID have accused Cuomo of covering up deaths while chasing “blood money” on the backs of loved ones.
Meanwhile, James’ office is conducting a separate criminal investigation into Cuomo’s book deal.
James, through a spokesperson, called JCOPE a failing ethics agency when asked about the legal dispute over the recovery of Cuomo’s book proceeds.
“Attorney General James’ record as a fiercely independent watchdog of justice stands in stark contrast to JCOPE’s failed ethics record. We must clean up corruption in accordance with our laws, not those half-hearted, light-hearted efforts that will not withstand legal scrutiny and get us nowhere,” the James representative said.
The State Assembly Judiciary Committee’s impeachment report recently revealed that Cuomo had extensively used staff members to help put together the book – although he insisted the job had been done. voluntarily and legally.
The practical ex-governor is also being questioned by the FBI and the Brooklyn U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Cuomo’s attorney said he would go to court to block JCOPE’s order to return the book’s profits, claiming their order was illegal.
“JCOPE’s actions violated fundamental constitutional rights and flagrantly exceeded its statutory authority. It is not at all surprising that the lawlessness of JCOPE’s latest illegal action is recognized as such. We remain prepared to vindicate the governor before a politically neutral body, our courts,” Cuomo’s attorney James McGuire previously said.