Former Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Friday sued the New York Ethics Committee, claiming that their efforts to force him to hand over the proceeds of a $5.1 million book deal violated his constitutional rights.
The dispute revolves around the Commission’s approval of Mr Cuomo’s 2020 memoir – a decision it reversed last year over misrepresentations of, among other things, his use of state resources.
When the panel, the Joint Commission on Public Ethics, ordered Mr. Cuomo to hand over the proceeds of the book, the attorney general’s office refused to enforce the policy, saying the commission must conduct an investigation before attempting to recover the money.
In the lawsuit filed in the state Supreme Court in Albany, Mr. Cuomo seeks to block such an investigation, arguing that the commission’s previous actions and what characterizes the lawsuit as adverse comments showed that it had already ruled on his guilt .
“Never in the history of New York has an agency so breathtakingly and irresponsibly anticipated a matter in which it is the final decision maker,” Mr. Cuomo’s court documents said.
A spokesman for the ethics committee declined to comment.
The lawsuit is the latest example of the visible and aggressive stance Mr. Cuomo, who resigned as governor in August, has taken since his return to public life in recent months.
Mr Cuomo’s resignation came after a report by Attorney General Letitia James found he had sexually molested several women, including some who worked for him. Mr. Cuomo has denied any harassment.
After several months in seclusion, Mr. Cuomo has recently resurfaced. He has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on television advertising to promote his accomplishments as governor, has spoken at two churches, and has begun to move from his personal issues to broader political issues.
Where he once expressed regret and said he was “too familiar with people,” he now blames “Cancel Culture” for forcing his resignation.
The lawsuit against the ethics committee fits into this pattern, with Mr. Cuomo insisting he did nothing wrong.
Mr. Cuomo has repeatedly said that no government resources were used in the production of his book, American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the Covid-19 Pandemic, and that all staff who worked on the project did so on their own time. The Commission has challenged this allegation.
A wide-ranging State Assembly investigation into whether Mr. Cuomo abused his power has since found that Mr. Cuomo “used the time of several state officials, as well as his own, to further his personal gain during a global pandemic.”
After the commission revoked its license to sell books, saying Mr Cuomo received it under false pretenses, the commission went one step further.
“In the absence of JCOPE’s approval of its outside work related to the book, Governor Cuomo has no legal authority to withhold any compensation paid to him,” the panel said in a December resolution, asking him to return the book proceeds reported for a total of $5.1 million.
But after the attorney general’s office refused to enforce the order, the commission proceeded with the legally required process for a formal hearing, which Mr Cuomo’s team is now trying to shut down.
Lawyers for Mr. Cuomo argue that the commission prejudiced him by saying that their previous testimonies — including in a hearing statement that said the evidence against the former governor was “overwhelming,” “incontrovertible,” and “uncontroversial.” ‘ – the panel would not have been able to judge impartially whether he broke the law.
For years, the ethics committee has been vilified by government monitoring groups for its perceived vulnerability to political interference. Powerless and at odds with the Commission, Mr. Cuomo accepted this charge.
The lawsuit comes amid signs the commission’s future is shaky. State leaders have signaled they expect the creation of a replacement agency as part of this year’s state budget, though the final form of the new entity has yet to take effect.
Gov. Kathy Hochul had proposed a new way to form such a body that would give law school deans, rather than lawmakers, the final say on appointments. An alternative plan has since emerged among lawmakers. It would retain appointing power with them but was heavily criticized by watchdog groups.
“New Yorkers deserve a truly independent commission that doesn’t simply replace one failing political entity with another,” a coalition of such groups said in a statement Wednesday.
https://www.nytimes.com/2022/04/01/nyregion/cuomo-lawsuit-jcope-book.html Cuomo is suing the ethics board to stop it from confiscating book profits