After former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo was ordered by the Joint Commission on Public Ethics to pay back the $5.1 million advance he received for the book he wrote amid the coronavirus pandemic, state Attorney General Letitia James said it was "premature" to rescind approval of the book deal.
James, whose bombshell report in August revealing that Cuomo sexually harassed 11 women led to the resignation of the former governor that same month, told the JCOPE that its decision to revoke the book deal's approval required "a record of the administrative process, and the statutory authority for the decision, the amount of the imposed fines and penalties, and a determination concerning the appropriate amount of disgorgement attributable to the violation of law."
The Thursday letter, written by Larry Schimmel, the attorney general’s general counsel, also said that JCOPE must "exhaust its own collection activity efforts concerning any funds" due to the state prior to making a referral to the AG’s Civil Recoveries Bureau.
"It is therefore premature to ask the OAG to begin collection efforts before a demand for payment is made to Mr. Cuomo, or his counsel, and he has had an opportunity to address the demand," the letter read.
Cuomo's attorney Jim McGuire slammed JCOPE's decision as "lawless" actions that "violated fundamental constitutional rights and flagrantly exceeded its statutory authority" and the former governor's spokesperson said the move was politically motivated.
"This had nothing to do with the law and is evidence of political attacks by the appointees of Governor Hochul, Speaker Heastie and Majority Leader Stewart-Cousins," Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi told the Washington Examiner. "Ironically, these Hochul, Heastie and Stewart-Cousins appointees taking the position that staff cannot do non-governmental volunteer work on their personal time damns them and their own employees, who should now be held to the same standard for volunteer work on their bosses' re-election campaigns."
This comes after the JCOPE on Tuesday ordered Cuomo to return the $5.1 million he received for his book, "American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from COVID-19 Pandemic," to James's office within 30 days after it concluded that the disgraced governor violated pledges not to use government staffers and other public resources to write the book.