Former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) will be allowed to keep $5.1 million in book profits despite a now-defunct ethics commission’s finding that he used state resources to write it, a judge ruled Tuesday.
Cuomo sued the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) in April after an investigation showed that Cuomo used state resources to write American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic in 2020 and the ethics agency ordered him to give $5.1 million in profits to the state.
Judge Denise A. Hartman ruled in Cuomo’s favor, however, and said he did not have to surrender the profits.
Between the time Cuomo sued JCOPE and the ruling, current Governor Kathy Hokul disbanded the group for failing to keep Cuomo in check. She is in the process of setting up a new ethics commission.
Not really over?
Cuomo was tasked with writing the book after his daily coronavirus briefings were praised and carried on some national news broadcasts, but later reports said that his failure to keep COVID-positive seniors out of nursing homes until they tested negative caused thousands of deaths in the state.
JCOPE and an independent firm it hired to investigate Cuomo’s use of public resources to write the book both said that he ‘misused the power and authority of his office to create, market and promote’ the memoir, for which Cuomo was paid a $5.1 million advance.
The judge did leave the door open to the possibility that Cuomo could be made to give the money to the state in the future, however.
“If, upon a review of JCOPE’s actions, the new commission decides to pursue action against Cuomo, proceeds with the adjudicatory hearing, and determines that a violation has occurred, the new Commission may then impose a civil penalty against him,” Hartman wrote.
“Shameful” and “unlawful”
For Cuomo’s part, his lawyers attacked JCOPE as biased and out to get him.
“JCOPE’s conduct was shameful, unlawful, and a waste of taxpayer funds,” Cuomo attorney Rita Glavin said.
Cuomo seems to have escaped mostly unscathed from any legal or criminal consequences after he resigned from office in August 2021 amid numerous allegations including a number of sexual misconduct complaints and official misconduct related to the coronavirus pandemic and the book.
An investigation found that at least some of the sexual misconduct allegations had merit, but no charges are expected to be filed against him.