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Cuomo’s Lawyer Issues Legal Threat to Ethics Panel That Told Him to Return $5.1 Million in Book Proceeds


New York Governor Cuomo

After three district attorneys in New York closed the books on criminal investigations or cases against him, ex-New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) took the counteroffensive on Wednesday against an ethics panel for ordering him to repay his $5.1 million in earnings from a book about the COVID-19 pandemic.

In October 2020, Cuomo published his book this period of his career, titled “American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic.” The New York State Assembly Judiciary Committee found during their impeachment investigation that in writing this book, Cuomo violated state guidelines requiring that no state property or personnel be used for activities associated with the book.

The New York State Joint Commission on Public Ethics, also known as JCOPE, later reached the same finding by a 12-1 ruling of its board on Dec. 14, giving him 30 days to relinquish his earnings. New York Attorney General Letitia James (D), whose scathing report on sexual harassment allegations against Cuomo sidelined his political career, later stopped that order in its tracks, casting the action as premature.

Just before what would have been the original deadline was poised to lapse, Cuomo responded with a letter from his attorney Jim McGuire, demanding that the committee’s Chair Jose L. Nieves preserve evidence to be used in a future legal action.

“JCOPE’s actions in connection with the Resolutions are flagrantly in excess of its jurisdiction, are based on determinations it has made in violation of lawful procedure, and are arbitrary and capricious,” McGuire wrote in a two-page letter on Wednesday.

Cuomo claims that JCOPE’s order violates his right of due-process under the U.S. and New York Constitutions, allegedly exposing the organization and its commissioners to liability under “42 U.S. Code § 1983″—the statute governing deprivation of civil rights.

JCOPE tried and failed twice to revoke the conditional approval for Cuomo to write his book, McGuire says, describing those developments as “ever-increasing evidence of its bias and prejudgment of the facts and law related to the propriety of the Governor’s conduct in connection with the book.”

“JCOPE’s actions support, at the very least, the reasonable conclusion that it has acted for improper political reasons,” McGuire’s letter continues. “The Governor will seek the intercession of the courts to protect his rights and prevent further abuses by JCOPE of its authority.”

McGuire demanded that the commissioner preserve records on “discussions, deliberations, and votes” on efforts to revoke the conditional approval letter and order repayment of his book proceeds.

The governor also wants to learn more about JCOPE’s discussions with Cuomo’s former special counsel Judith Mogul, who insisted in a memo on Aug. 19, 2020, that she informed the ethics panel that Cuomo would not use state resources for his book.

“Even prior to contacting JCOPE, I confirmed that no state resources would be used in writing the book, and that any staff who were assisting the Governor on the book would do so on their own time, either on evenings or weekends, or by taking leave,” Mogul wrote.

JCOPE did not immediately respond to Law&Crime’s email requesting comment.

Read the letter from Cuomo’s lawyers, below:

(Photo via Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

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Law&Crime's managing editor Adam Klasfeld has spent more than a decade on the legal beat. Previously a reporter for Courthouse News, he has appeared as a guest on NewsNation, NBC, MSNBC, CBS's "Inside Edition," BBC, NPR, PBS, Sky News, and other networks. His reporting on the trial of Ghislaine Maxwell was featured on the Starz and Channel 4 documentary "Who Is Ghislaine Maxwell?" He is the host of Law&Crime podcast "Objections: with Adam Klasfeld."