A New York state ethics panel voted unanimously on Tuesday to launch a probe into the panel’s previous decision to greenlight disgraced former Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s $5 million book deal last year.
New York’s Joint Commission on Public Ethics voted to open an investigation into Cuomo and its own approval of his book deal. Cuomo’s book, “American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the Covid-19 Pandemic,” pulled in $5.1 million for the former governor.
GOP panel member David McNamara issued a proposed resolution to tap outside counsel to conduct “an inquiry into the facts, circumstances, policies and practices” surrounding Cuomo’s request for authorization to personally profit from the book. Last month, the same panel voted to let Cuomo keep the money he made from the book. If a new probe finds the panel wrongly approved Cuomo’s book deal, however, the panel could require him to return the profits.
The panel voted Tuesday to “approve the retention of independent counsel to conduct an inquiry into the legal and procedural operations of the commission,” said Jose Nieves, the commission’s new Democratic chairman. Nieves had been appointed just a day earlier by Gov. Kathy Hochul.
In July 2020, the deputy general counsel at the ethics commission approved the book deal while the panel was out of session, between June and August meetings. Since then, board members have griped that they were not consulted about the approval, noting that the board never voted on it.
Cuomo resigned in disgrace in August after a sexual harassment scandal engulfed his administration, marking the end of his three terms in office. The Democratic governor’s decision to step down came a week after a damning report from the New York attorney general’s office, which found the governor sexually harassed multiple women.
“Given the circumstances, the best way I can help now is if I step aside and let government get back to governing,” Cuomo said from his Manhattan office. “And therefore, that’s what I’ll do.”
The attorney general’s report found that Cuomo violated federal and state laws by sexually harassing 11 women, including former New York state employees and members of the public. Even as he was resigning, the former governor remained firm in his denials that he did nothing wrong. Cuomo said he “deeply apologizes” to the women he offended but pleaded ignorance and took no responsibility for acting inappropriately on purpose, saying that in his mind, he “never crossed the line with anyone,” and “didn’t realize the extent to which the line has been redrawn.”
Meanwhile, Cuomo was still reeling from other scandals, including his dismal handling of the coronavirus in nursing homes and his administration’s subsequent coverup of the death toll.
Cuomo is also under scrutiny for potentially employing government resources to work on the book. His top aide, Melissa DeRosa, attended meetings with publishers and helped edit book drafts, The New York Times reported. New York State Attorney General Letitia James opened an investigation into those allegations earlier this year.