Cuomo may have to forfeit millions of dollars tied to Covid-19 memoir

Mr Andrew Cuomo had asked the state ethics panel in July 2020 for permission to write a book about his leadership during the crisis. PHOTO: AFP

NEW YORK (NYTIMES) - Former New York governor Andrew Cuomo could be forced to forfeit millions of dollars that he earned from his 2020 pandemic memoir after a state ethics board on Tuesday (Nov 16) voted to revoke its authorisation for the book.

The Joint Commission on Public Ethics accused Mr Cuomo of essentially obtaining approval under false pretenses, including breaking his promise not to use state resources towards completion of the memoir.

"Contrary to the representations made on behalf of (Mr) Cuomo and not disclosed to the commission, state property, resources and personnel, including staff volunteers, were used in connection with the preparation, writing, editing and publication of the book," according to a resolution that was approved by a 12-1 vote.

The commission also noted several misrepresentations in Mr Cuomo's request for the ethics commission's approval, including the nature of the book's subject matter and how far along the project was at the time of the request. It also noted that the full financial details of the deal and contract had been withheld from the panel.

Legal experts said that the former governor would most likely have the opportunity to reapply to the board for its approval; if the board rejected Mr Cuomo's application, it could order him to surrender book profits or face separate penalties.

In a statement, Mr Cuomo characterised the decision as the height of hypocrisy and a political game, reiterating that any staff who assisted with the book project did so on their own time.

A lawyer for Mr Cuomo, Mr Jim McGuire, said that he was looking "forward to vigorously contesting in court any efforts the JCOPE (joint commission) makes to enforce this baseless and improper decision".

Mr Cuomo had asked the state ethics panel in July 2020 for permission to write a book about his leadership during the crisis, just as New York began to slowly emerge from the brutal first wave of the pandemic. A staff member at the commission reviewed the request and issued an authorisation; no vote was taken.

The book, titled "American Crisis: Leadership Lessons From the Covid-19 Pandemic", turned into a headache for Crown, an imprint of Penguin Random House, a publishing company, earlier this year as Mr Cuomo became engulfed in other scandals, including sexual harassment allegations that led to his resignation.

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