NY ethics commission rescinds approval for Cuomo book deal

ALBANY, N.Y. - Members of New York's ethics commission voted overwhelmingly to rescind approval of former Gov. Andrew Cuomo's $5.1 million book deal Tuesday.
The committee's vote comes over a year since the October 2020 publication of Cuomo's book “American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic,” which largely recounts the governor’s once-daily press conferences last spring.
The former governor, who resigned in August amid findings he sexually harassed at least 11 women, is also facing scrutiny over the book deal from state Attorney General Letitia James, federal prosecutors and the state Assembly's Judiciary Committee, which is expected to soon release findings from a wide-ranging investigation of Cuomo’s alleged abuses of power.
The staff of the New York ethics commission granted approval of Cuomo’s deal in July 2020, when his special counsel Judith Mogul told the commission that Cuomo would not use any state personnel or resources to produce his book and that he would write it “entirely on his own time.”
The rise and fall of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Aug. 10, 2021
But Cuomo has since acknowledged that state employees helped with tasks including editing the manuscript.
He’s claimed that those employees were “volunteering.”
That revelation led to members of the ethics commission voting 12-1 Tuesday to rescind because of Mogul's misstatements about Cuomo's book deal.
Republican Commissioner David McNamara said state property, resources and personnel were used to prepare, write, edit and publish the book “contrary to the representations” made on Cuomo's behalf.
And several ethics commissioners have said members of the commission, rather than commission staff, should have reviewed Mogul’s letter and voted on Cuomo’s book deal.
Cuomo’s spokesperson Richard Azzopardi called the commission’s vote politically motivated, and said elected officials often use staff for political and personal assistance.
Tuesday's vote means Cuomo will have to apply again for approval for his book deal.
McNamara and other commissioners have said they want to claw back at least some of Cuomo's book deal proceeds.
It’s unclear whether the state could go after all the proceeds: Cuomo netted $1.5 million on the book last year, and donated $500,000 to the United Way of New York State and the rest into a trust for his three daughters.
A spokesperson for the ethics commission didn't immediately respond to several questions by The Associated Press, including why a staffer approved Cuomo's book deal, what happens if Cuomo doesn't seek a new approval and whether the state could get back donated proceeds or money that's in a trust fund.
Cuomo could also face a fine, since violations of the state's public officers law can lead to up to $10,000 fines and the value of any “compensation or benefit received as a result of such violation.”
Attorney Jim McGuire, who's representing Cuomo over allegations surrounding the book deal, said Cuomo will fight in court to prevent the ethics commission from enforcing its decision.
Cuomo's book sold at least 48,900 hard copies through Nov. 6, according to NPD Book Scan, which tracks most book sellers.
By MARINA VILLENEUVE
(Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)