New York AG Subpoenas Ethics Agency for Records on Ex-Gov. Cuomo's $5.1 Million Book Deal

© AP Photo / Richard DrewNew York State Attorney General Letitia James during a news conference at her office in New York
New York State Attorney General Letitia James during a news conference at her office in New York - Sputnik International, 1920, 08.09.2021
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Since mid-April, the office of New York State Attorney General Letitia James (D) has been investigating whether ex-New York Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) violated ethics laws by seeking out state employees to assist with drafting and editing his COVID-19 pandemic leadership book. Cuomo's office has claimed state officials simply volunteered their time.
The New York State Office of the Attorney General has subpoenaed the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) for all records related to Cuomo's $5.1 million book deal, according to a Wednesday report from the Albany Times Union.
The issuance comes as part of the AG's criminal probe into whether Cuomo misused government resources for his own personal gain while writing "American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic."
Staffers with JCOPE, a New York watchdog panel overseeing lobbying and ethics standards, granted Cuomo conditional permission to write the book, and collect outside income from the lucrative deal. The July 2020 decision stipulated that the memoir must be written on "his own time and not on state time" and "no state property personnel or other resources" could be used during the process.
Cuomo has maintained that state officials who assisted him with the project "volunteered" their time and wanted to personally review the memoir to ensure its accuracy.
However, Judith Mogul, then-special counsel for Cuomo, explicitly told JCOPE in July 2020 that "he will write the book entirely on his own time, without the use of state resources or personnel."
Reports have since revealed that Cuomo may not have abided by his special counsel's pledge, as a number of state employees, including top aide Melissa DeRosa, assisted with drafting and editing the memoir.
Jim Malatras, who is now chancellor of the State University of New York, reportedly helped Cuomo edit and fact-check the book while working as an aide. Appearing before the Assembly Judiciary Committee late last month, Malatras testified that he did work on Cuomo's memoir during regular work hours, according to the New York Post.
"I didn’t work on the book during business hours," he clarified. "I took time off. I testified as such."
The Assembly Judiciary Committee's probe into the matter is separate from the New York Attorney General's investigation.
Cuomo's $5.1 million book deal included $2 million payments issued in both 2021 and 2022, according to a financial disclosure form made public in May. However, JCOPE executive director Judge Sanford Berland has noted that the disgraced ex-governor may be forced to return all proceeds if it is determined he violated state law.
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