Former Gov. Andrew Cuomo may keep his lucrative book deal with the support of an unlikely ally.
New York Attorney General Letitia James, whose bombshell Aug. 3 report vetting 11 women's claims of sexual harassment precipitated the then-governor's resignation later that month, told the Joint Commission on Public Ethics its Monday decision to rescind approval of Cuomo's book deal was flawed without "a record of the administrative process, and the statutory authority for the decision, the amount of the imposed fines and penalties, and a determination concerning the appropriate amount of disgorgement attributable to the violation of law."
"It is therefore premature to ask the OAG to begin collection efforts before a demand for payment is made to Mr. Cuomo, or his counsel, and he has had an opportunity to address the demand," the Thursday letter, written by the attorney general’s general counsel, Larry Schimmel, read.
CUOMO ORDERED TO TURN OVER $5.1 MILLION FROM BOOK DEAL TO NEW YORK ATTORNEY GENERAL WITHIN 30 DAYS
Asked for comment about the letter, a representative for James told the Washington Examiner her office was "letting the letter ... speak for itself."
Cuomo's team slammed the JCOPE's decision to revoke approval of the former governor's book deal, with Cuomo attorney Jim McGuire saying the ethics board's "lawless" actions "violated fundamental constitutional rights and flagrantly exceeded its statutory authority."
"This had nothing to do with the law and is evidence of political attacks by the appointees of Governor Hochul, Speaker Heastie and Majority Leader Stewart-Cousins. Ironically, these Hochul, Heastie and Stewart-Cousins appointees taking the position that staff cannot do non-governmental volunteer work on their personal time damns them and their own employees, who should now be held to the same standard for volunteer work on their bosses' re-election campaigns," Rich Azzopardi, a Cuomo spokesman, added in an email to the Washington Examiner.
On Tuesday, the JCOPE ordered Cuomo to turn over the $5.1 million he received for American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from COVID-19 Pandemic to James's office within 30 days. The New York ethics board's Nov. 16 vote rescinding the agreement marked a reversal of its stance just weeks prior when an Oct. 19 7-2 vote to undo the agreement fell short of the eight votes required for the measure to pass. The ethics agency previously voted on Sept. 14 to allow the former governor's book deal to stand.
Azzopardi said the November vote showed the JCOPE's members were "acting outside the scope of their authority and [were] carrying the water of the politicians who appointed them."
"It is the height of hypocrisy for [Gov. Kathy] Hochul and the legislature's appointees to take this position, given that these elected officials routinely use their own staff for political and personal assistance on their own time. ... They truly are a J-JOKE," he said.
In October, the JCOPE approved an investigation into its authorization of Cuomo's book deal, with even those who previously supported allowing the approval to stand voting in favor of the independent investigation.
The JCOPE has been the subject of scrutiny, with James issuing at least one subpoena in September for its records following an April referral from Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli to investigate whether "public resources [were] used in the development and promotion of the governor's book." Cuomo insisted staff members volunteered to help, though his office conceded there could be some "incidental" use of state resources.
Cuomo, who resigned on Aug. 24 after James released an Aug. 3 report saying he sexually harassed 11 women, has denied a slew of allegations of wrongdoing, including the charges contained in the sexual harassment and ethics controversies. The New York State Assembly has apparently corroborated the findings of James's report, unearthing a 12th accuser in its separate Nov. 22 report.
James poking holes in the Monday JCOPE vote could mark a thawing amid the recently frosty relationship between the attorney general and the former governor. Cuomo and James, once political allies, have been verbally sparring ever since James, who subsequently declared a gubernatorial run only to drop out of the race shortly thereafter, announced the findings of her report. In September, James slammed Cuomo for not taking "responsibility for his own conduct" after he blasted his ouster as "politics."
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In October, Cuomo was charged with forcible touching regarding an incident that allegedly occurred at the executive mansion, which he has said "never" happened. The former governor is expected to appear in court on Jan. 7.