ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — New York State’s Joint Commission on Public Ethics, or JCOPE, is launching a probe into its own body. The Commission will hire outside lawyers to investigate the approval of former Governor Andrew Cuomo’s $5.1 million book deal.
Coming out of a private executive session Tuesday, JCOPE’s Chair Jose Nieves made a virtual public announcement alongside other members.
“The Commission has voted to approve the retention of independent counsel to conduct an inquiry into legal and procedural operations of the commission,” he said.
Aside from claims that Cuomo used state resources to produce his book “American Crisis,” which he has denied, there’s another key issue at hand.
“Specifically, why a staff member of JCOPE was able to give then-Governor Cuomo approval to receive $5 million to write a book about COVID instead of having the Commission, which is appointed by elected officials, make that decision,” said John Kaehny, Reinvent Albany Executive Director.
New York State Attorney General Letitia James and the Assembly Judiciary Committee are probing the book deal as well.
“There’s a lot of mystery surrounding this, but one thing is clear, which is that JCOPE is just floundering and needs to be blown up and completely replaced by a new ethics enforcement body,” Kaehny said.
Governor Kathy Hochul has called for JCOPE to be replaced as well.
In a statement Wednesday, Citizen Action of New York President Ivette Alfonso said: “The fact that the New York State Joint Commission on Public Ethics finally made the decision to investigate former Governor Andrew Cuomo’s book deal shows that Cuomo had too much influence over the commission in the first place.”