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Top NY ethics panel orders Andrew Cuomo to return $5.1M pandemic book profits to the state

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Disgraced former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) must pay New York back the $5.1 million in book profits he made by abusing state resources during the COVID-19 pandemic, the state's top ethics panel said Tuesday.

The Joint Commission on Public Ethics voted 12-1 to order Cuomo to fork over the profits from his book, "American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic," which he wrote last year while he was still governor and was mishandling the state's response to the coronavirus pandemic. The ethics panel previously voted to revoke its approval of Cuomo's book deal, which permitted Cuomo to earn outside income while still in office.

JCOPE rescinded its approval because it concluded thatthe governor inappropriately used government staffers and resources to write his book, the New York Post reported. Cuomo must turn over his profits to state Attorney General Letitia James by the end of next month.

A JCOPE resolution said Cuomo "lacked the legal authority to engage in outside activity and receive compensation in regard to the book." The resolution was drafted by commissioner David McNamara, a state Senate Republican appointee.

“Gov. Cuomo is not legally entitled to retain compensation ... for any form of outside activity related to the book,” McNamara said.

The ethics panel's decision comes after Cuomo was forced to resign in disgrace following a report from the attorney general's office that substantiated multiple allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct made against the governor by current and former staffers.

“It is ordered that by no later than 30 days from the date of this resolution, Gov. Cuomo pay over to the attorney general of the State of New York an amount equal to the compensation paid to him for his outside activities related to the book,” the resolution says.

James would determine to whom the profits would be distributed, according to the Post.

"Cuomo’s book deal also is being investigated by James, the FBI, and the Brooklyn US Attorney’s Office. The state Assembly Judiciary Committee’s impeachment report found that Cuomo used staffers extensively to help prepare the book — though he insisted the work was done voluntarily and legally," the Post reported.

Responding to the JCOPE's resolution, an attorney for Cuomo said the action was illegal and will be challenged in court.

“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,” attorney Jim McGuire said.

“Should they seek to enforce this action, we’ll see them in court.”

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