Former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo will not be forced to repay the state for the $5 million he took in profits from his book on the COVID-19 pandemic – at least for now, according to a judge’s ruling on Tuesday.
State Supreme Court Justice Denise Hartman of Albany declined to issue an injunction that would have forced Cuomo to cut a check to the state, ruling the now-defunct Joint Commission on Public Ethics, or JCOPE, didn’t follow the correct process before asking the court to step in.
Under state law, JCOPE should have held a hearing allowing Cuomo to be heard, Hartman ruled.
“To allow JCOPE to bypass the administrative procedures set forth in the statute would implicate due process protections,” Hartman wrote in her opinion.
Tax records show Cuomo earned at least $5.1 million from the Crown Publishing Group for his 2020 book, "American Crisis," which he wrote while still governor. The book recounts his efforts in the early days of the pandemic. Cuomo resigned in August 2021 amid sexual harassment claims from 11 women, including nine members of his staff, though he denies wrongdoing.
JCOPE staff had initially granted Cuomo an approval to write the book and profit from it, so long as he followed specific rules such as avoiding the use of state resources while writing it. But JCOPE’s commissioners later took issue with the approval and found that Cuomo used state resources, including many hours of work on the book by members of his staff — hours that Cuomo’s team claims were voluntary.
The ethics board ultimately rescinded the approval in December, seeking to force Cuomo to repay the state and forgo future profits.
Hartman’s ruling leaves it up to the state’s new ethics enforcer, the Commission on Ethics and Lobbying in Government, to decide whether to properly pursue Cuomo’s book profits under its own administrative process. The new commission was created by Gov. Kathy Hochul and state lawmakers earlier this year to replace the much-maligned JCOPE, which was often criticized for its ineffectiveness.
It wasn’t immediately clear if the new ethics commission intends to appeal the ruling. A spokesperson couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.
Cuomo’s representatives hailed the ruling as a victory.
“JCOPE’s utter lawlessness in its treatment of Governor Cuomo has been exposed and the rule of law prevailed,” Cuomo’s attorney Rita Glavin said in a statement. “JCOPE’s conduct was shameful, unlawful, and a waste of taxpayer’s funds.”