Former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo received a hefty sum for his book on the pandemic—and a state ethics panel has now ordered him to turn it over. The Joint Commission on Public Ethics voted 12-1 to order Cuomo to hand over the proceeds from American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic within 30 days, the New York Post reports. Cuomo had a $5.1 million deal with a subsidiary of Penguin Random House for the book. American Crisis was on bestseller lists after its October 2020 release, though sales slowed to a trickle even before Cuomo was accused of sexual harassment by multiple women.
The ethics panel approved Cuomo's book deal in July 2020 after he promised to write it entirely on his own time and not use any state employees or resources, the AP reports. A state Assembly investigation last month, however, found that junior and senior staff members had spent large amounts of time on the book during working hours, with one senior official sending and receiving around 1,000 book-related emails. The panel rescinded its approval last month after determining Cuomo, who resigned in August, had violated his pledge, reports the Post. Commissioner David McNamara said Tuesday that the former governor is "not legally entitled to retain compensation" for any book-related activity.
An attorney for Cuomo promised to fight the order in court, the Albany Times Union reports. Jim McGuire said the ethics panel's actions are "unconstitutional, exceed its own authority, and appear to be driven by political interests rather than the facts and the law." The panel left enforcement of the order up to the office of New York Attorney General Letitia James. Her office will also determine whether the funds are returned to the publisher or given to the state treasury. The book deal is still being investigated by James' office and the FBI. (Read more Andrew Cuomo stories.)