Ethics commission orders former NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo to give state back earnings from $5.1M pandemic book deal


(CNN)A New York State public ethics commission has voted to order former Gov. Andrew Cuomo to pay back earnings from the $5.1 million deal he received to write a book about leading the state during the coronavirus pandemic, after the commission previously found that state resources were used in connection with the book’s creation.

Cuomo has 30 days to return the money, according to the resolution, which CNN obtained through a source familiar with the vote.

The resolution that the Joint Commission on Public Ethics voted on Tuesday said the New York attorney general is vested with the legal authority to enforce the decision and to determine where the returned book proceeds should be distributed.

    Walter McClure, a spokesman for JCOPE, confirmed to CNN that the vote was 12-1 in support of the resolution.

      Jim McGuire, an attorney for Cuomo, called the action “unconstitutional.”

        “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,” McGuire said in a statement to CNN. “Should they seek to enforce this action, we’ll see them in court.”

        CNN has reached out to New York Attorney General Letitia James’ office for comment.

          Allegations that Cuomo used state resources for the book, called “American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the Covid-19 Pandemic,” are also part of an ongoing criminal investigation by New York Attorney General Letitia James’ office.

          JCOPE previously voted to approve Cuomo’s book contract in 2020.

          At a November meeting, Commissioner David McNamara said the commission gave its conditional approval at the time partly because Cuomo said in a letter requesting approval of the deal that he would write the book “entirely on his own time without the use of state resources or personnel.”

          During that November meeting, commissioners voted to revoke their approval of the book, in part because “state property resources and personnel including staff volunteers were used in connection with the preparation writing editing and publication of the book,” the resolution read.

            In April, when asked by reporters if state resources had been used to create the book, the then-governor said that “some people volunteered to review the book.”

            Rich Azzopardi, a spokesman for Cuomo, said in a previous statement to CNN in May that Cuomo donated $500,000 from his book deal to the United Way of New York State for pandemic relief and vaccination efforts.