ALBANY — At a special meeting on Thursday, New York's ethics commission is expected to vote on whether to revoke its staff's approval of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's lucrative book deal last year.Gary Lavine, a Senate Republican appointee to the Joint Commission on Public Ethics, plans to introduce the motion revoking Cuomo's permission to write "American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic," which was published in October 2020 and recounts the governor's early handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Lavine believes that JCOPE staff never had the authority to approve the outside income request without seeking JCOPE commissioners' approval. In addition, Lavine says that Cuomo's special counsel, Judith Mogul, made material misrepresentations by promising that Cuomo would not use his government staff to help produce the book, when in fact, Cuomo had already been doing so when she sought the approval in July 2020. If the motion passes, JCOPE could try to force Cuomo to return the millions in proceeds from the $5.1 million publishing deal.
Lavine is also planning to introduce a motion on Thursday seeking a criminal investigation by the state attorney general's office into the apparent 2019 leak of confidential JCOPE information to Cuomo. While a similar motion failed by two votes in June, the dynamics on the panel may be different with the governor no longer in power. Cuomo was set to leave office Monday night.
A JCOPE spokesman declined to provide a copy of the meeting's agenda, which would provide more information about the reasons for the special meeting outside the agency's normal monthly schedule.
While generally pliant to Cuomo, JCOPE may now be more prone to taking action when he's out of office – especially since JCOPE faces a greater threat of being eliminated by critics, who say its been ineffectual.
One factor that could shape JCOPE's actions going forward is whether Cuomo's six appointees to the panel will remain.
In a letter written to incoming Gov. Kathy Hochul on Friday, Republican state Sen. Anthony Palumbo called on Hochul to seek the resignations of the Cuomo-appointed commissioners.
"Under its current structure, the governor exerts outsize control on the decision making and operations of JCOPE," Palumbo wrote. "Your comments regarding cleaning up the toxic environment in the governor’s office leads me to hope that you are more amenable to revamping JCOPE than your predecessor ever was. As such, I would encourage you to seek the resignations of the commissioners appointed by Andrew Cuomo and replace them with your own."
Read the full article here: Chris Bragg
Aug. 23, 2021Updated: Aug. 23, 2021 3:38 p.m.