A state ethics board said on Tuesday that it will require former Gov. Andrew Cuomo to forfeit money he made from a $5.1 million book deal, a response to revelations he used state staff and resources to produce the manuscript.
The move comes a month after the Joint Commission on Public Ethics revoked its authorization allowing Cuomo to profit from his memoir, “American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the Covid-19 Pandemic.” The book was published in October 2020.
Cuomo declined to either challenge that vote or apply for a new authorization.
“It would be certainly unethical for us to revoke approval of the governor’s book deal and then him still keep the funds,” said Commissioner Richard Braun, an appointee of the state Assembly’s Democrats.
Cuomo has 30 days to surrender “an amount equal to the compensation paid to him” for the book to the office of state Attorney General Tish James. Her office will decide whether the money will go to the state or back to the publisher.
The former governor will not cooperate.
“JCOPE’s actions today are unconstitutional, exceed its own authority and appear to be driven by political interests rather than the facts and the law,” Cuomo attorney Jim McGuire said in a statement. “Should they seek to enforce this action, we’ll see them in court.”
The authorization was revoked after various reports revealed that state employees helped Cuomo author the book. The initial approval asserted that state resources should not be used on the project. More recently, a report rising out of the Assembly’s impeachment investigation concluded that “book-related assignments were given by superiors and were expected to be completed like any other task.”
The former governor does not have access to the entire $5.1 million sum. Cuomo received an initial payment of $3.12 million from Penguin Random House in 2020, according to taxes released earlier this year, and was due to eventually receive another $2 million. After taxes and expenses, he made $1.54 million. A third of that was donated to the United Way of New York State. The remainder was placed in a trust for his three daughters.