ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Tuesday morning, JCOPE—the Joint Commission on Public Ethics, tasked with overseeing government ethics in New York—voted to rescind prior approval for “American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic.” The book, which grabbed a reported $5.1 million payday for ex-Gov. Andrew Cuomo, was reportedly written at least in part by state employees during their off-hours.
JCOPE commissioners reportedly voted 12-1 to revoke the approval. Cuomo spokesperson Rich Azzopardi responded in part:
“These JCOPE members are acting outside the scope of their authority and are carrying the water of the politicians who appointed them. It is the height of hypocrisy for Hochul and the legislature’s appointees to take this position, given that these elected officials routinely use their own staff for political and personal assistance on their own time.”
“This is the 3rd time JCOPE has attempted to rescind their own approval, and this amounts to nothing more than Albany political corruption at its worst. JCOPE wants to rescind an approval that was relied upon to play a political game and that means a JCOPE opinion cannot be relied upon by anyone and is subject to political winds. Our counsel’s request to JCOPE was clear, saying ‘no government resources’ would be used—consistent with that representation, people who volunteered on this project did so on their own time. Furthermore, the Governor cannot be held responsible for internal decisions over recusals and approvals made by JCOPE.”
“They truly are a J-JOKE.”
The way the Democratic Cuomo administration handled the book deal—particularly, its handling of nursing home death data, and its position on staff volunteering to work on the project—has drawn criticism from both sides of the political aisle. Following the JCOPE vote, Assemblymember Ron Kim—a New York City Democrat who clashed with Cuomo on nursing home visitation policies and deaths—released a statement, too:
“Finally, JCOPE has taken a small step in holding Andrew Cuomo accountable. One does not need a background in law or ethics to understand how brokering a $5.1 million book deal based on falsifiled data and misused public resources is patently illegal. The idea that at the peak of the pandemic, this greedy, corrupt governor profited off the COVID crisis he helped exacerbate while the bodies were still piling up―it defies human decency and displays utter contempt for the people he claimed to care about. I have faith that our justice system will see this investigation through, and hope his entire immoral syndicate will be brought to justice.”
JCOPE previously approved Cuomo’s seven-figure book deal and voted against revoking that approval less than a month ago. Jim McGuire, a lawyer who Azzopardi says represents Cuomo on matters involving the book, said: