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Cuomo may have to surrender $5M book advance if state resources helped write his book

WRGB Albany logo WRGB Albany 8/28/2021 Steve Maugeri
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Republican state senator Dan Stec questioned the Executive Director of the Joint Commission on Public Ethics during a hearing this week. He asked JCOPE if they can do more than just issue a fine if an elected official uses their public office to enrich themselves, which is illegal.

“In the penalty provision subsection 4 does provide for a penalty that includes recoupment of the compensation or benefit received by the individual,” said JCOPE Executive Director Judge Sanford Berland.

Stec says based off that, he believes former Governor Andrew Cuomo may have to give up the $5.1 million dollar advance he received for the book he wrote during the pandemic, called “American Crisis.”

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“There’s a lot of people that don’t think he should get a nickel of that five million dollars. Even if he did it right, it was inappropriate to write a book on that subject and enrich yourself five million dollars,” Stec said.

Stec says the former governor may also have to pay a fine of up to 40,000 dollars, and reimburse the state for any wages paid to state employees that worked on the book while on the clock, adding that a lot of steps would have to happen for the state to follow through on stripping Cuomo of the money.

Cuomo is accused of having staffers work on the book while on the taxpayer’s dime. This allegation is under investigation. If proven true it would be violation of the state’s public officer’s law.

“There’s a long way to go from us finding out that yes he could be on the hook for this. For them to decide to one pursue it, two to agree that he’s done something wrong and three have the courage to actually drop the hammer and enforce it,” Stec said.

Stec isn’t sure where the $5 million would go. He wants it donated to the families who lost loved ones in nursing homes to COVID-19. Democratic Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara says that the funds should be donated to those same victims, the victims of alleged sexual harassment and women’s rights organizations. He doesn’t feel it was appropriate to write a book during the pandemic in the first place.

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“When you look at the circumstances of what resources were used what about the time he spent to make this book deal happen. Time that should have been spent dealing with the issue that was at hand which was the COVID crisis,” Santabarbara said.

The Governor pocketed just over $2 million of that advance after taxes and expenses. He has already donated $500,000 to a non-profit and put the rest in a trust for his daughters. Either way he may have to come up with 5.1 million dollars if the state finds he illegally created the book with state resources.

It’s unclear at this time whether the royalties from the book’s sales will also be up for grabs. An election attorney tells CBS 6 the former governor cannot use any of the $18 million dollars in his campaign account to pay back the advance. There is no indication that the governor plans on using the campaign war chest for this purpose.

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