Ethics Panel Rules Former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo  Must Return $5 Million Book Payment

Cuomo released his COVID memoir, American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the Covid-19 Pandemic, in 2020

andrew cuomo
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

A New York ethics panel has ordered former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to return some $5 million in compensation he received for his COVID memoir, American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the Covid-19 Pandemic.

Bloomberg reports the Joint Commission on Public Ethics voted 11-2 on Tuesday in favor of a resolution requiring the former governor to repay all the compensation he earned from sales of the book within 30 days. The money will be repaid to the state.

Cuomo's attorney Jim McGuire told Bloomberg the ethic panel's actions "appear to be driven by political interests rather than the facts and the law."

"Should they seek to enforce this action, we'll see them in court," his statement added.

American Crisis was received skeptically by many as it was published in October 2020, while the pandemic remained very much underway.

Though the book capitalized on his pandemic-era profile, Cuomo said it was an opportunity for reflection and not a victory lap: "Let's adjust for the re-entry on to the field, because this is not going away," he told NPR.

Cuomo has received criticism, however, for using public resources — including state workers — to write the book. Though the former governor had promised no state resources would be used to create the book, a 2021 legislative investigation found "that book-related assignments were given by superiors and expected to be completed, and the work was not voluntary."

The report continued: "Another senior state official complained in a text message to a colleague that work on the book was compromising the official's ability to work on COVID-related matters."

A spokesperson for Crown Publishing Group at Penguin Random House told The New York Times back in March there were "no plans" to reprint Cuomo's book or publish a paperback edition citing an "ongoing investigation into N.Y.S. reporting of COVID-related fatalities in nursing homes."

Cuomo resigned as governor of New York in August in the wake of an investigation that found he "sexually harassed multiple women," New York State Letitia James said in a report of the investigation she led.

The investigation determined Cuomo engaged in "unwanted groping, kisses, hugging, and making inappropriate comments" with both current and former New York state employees. She added that the actions "created a hostile work environment for women."

Cuomo has denied allegations that he acted inappropriately, and has said he "never inappropriately touched anybody" but apologized for what he insisted was inadvertent behavior.

In October, Cuomo was charged with forcible touching, a misdemeanor sex crime, in Albany, N.Y., stemming from an alleged incident at the Governor's Executive Mansion on Dec. 7, 2020.

According to a misdemeanor complaint obtained by PEOPLE, Cuomo allegedly "did ... forcibly place his hand under the blouse shirt of the victim" and onto her breast.

Forcible touching is Class A misdemeanor that carries a penalty of up to one year in prison, The New York Times reports.

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