Attorney General Letitia James launched a criminal investigation 15 months ago into whether ex-Gov. Andrew Cuomo illegally used state employees and other taxpayers’ money to work on his controversial, $5 million profit-making pandemic memoir.
Now ethics watchdogs and families of COVID-19 nursing home victims are asking, “Where’s the beef?”
“As far as I know, there is no evidence of an active investigation. As far as I can ascertain, there is no action by the Attorney General,” said Gary Lavine, a Republican Senate nominee for the new state commission on ethics in lobbying and government, who was previously a member of the Joint Commission on Public Ethics.
Tracy Alvino, whose father Daniel died of COVID-19 at a West Islip care home in 2020, suspected election year politics comes into play. James, who considered running for governor and then withdrew, is seeking re-election as attorney general this fall.
“There’s no reason why we haven’t had any replies yet. This should be a direct hit against Cuomo’s blood money book of lies written on the graves of 15,000 nursing home residents,” Alvino said.
“It’s all about the political calendar here,” she said.
James’ office said the investigation into the Cuomo book is “ongoing” but declined to comment further.
By comparison, the Attorney General’s devastating investigative report, which concluded that Cuomo had sexually harassed or abused a slew of women, forcing the three-year ex-governor’s resignation on pain of impeachment, was due in five months, from March to August 2021, completed — much faster than the book request.
There is no dispute that Cuomo relied heavily on senior government aides to prepare the book, American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic.
The central question is whether he violated the Civil Service Act.
Investigations by the Assembly Judiciary Committee and later JCOPE have both blasted Cuomo’s use of staff to create the book for hefty personal gain amid the pandemic.
“It flouts the law on public servants for Cuomo to get away with using his staff and office for personal gain,” a source close to the assembly’s probe into the ex-governor’s impeachment told The Post on Tuesday.
Cuomo’s camp said the staff volunteered to work on the book in their personal time, which they claim is legal.
James’ Republican opponent for attorney general, Michael Henry, accused her of sitting on the results.
“Now that Letitia James is no longer running for governor, she has failed to release her findings on the Cuomo book scandal and possible violations of the Public Officers Act. New Yorkers, and grieving nursing home families in particular, are clamoring to see the results,” Henry said.
A government expert wondered if JCOPE – by initially approving the Cuomo book deal – has doomed the chances of criminal proceedings against him.
JCOPE belatedly revoked its approval of the book deal and has attempted to force Cuomo to spit out the profits, the subject of a legal battle. But the damage was done.
“JCOPE may have made it impossible to be prosecuted by approving the book trade in the first place. The Attorney General’s Office may not believe they have a winnable case,” said John Kaehny, executive director of Reinvent Albany.
Still, Kaehny said it was wrong to sit on the results when the AG’s office came to a conclusion.
“It’s one of the oldest tricks used by officials to evade accountability. ‘We’re still investigating,'” Kaehny said. “It’s not fair to the defendant – whatever you think of him – or the public,” he said.
Cuomo insisted he acted appropriately when applying for book deal approval.
“As we’ve been saying all along, JCOPE was provided with everything they needed – including the subject matter – to approve the book and, on the advice of legal counsel, everyone who volunteered to support the project did so in his free time, as it turned out on their timesheets,” said Cuomo spokesman Richard Azzopardi.
James received a referral from State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli in April 2021 to investigate “the alleged commission of one or more criminal offenses” related to the Cuomo book. The Comptroller releases funds to the state payroll.
Meanwhile, the new state commission on lobbying and ethics in the government must decide whether to continue the fight against Cuomo in court over the book profits when it meets.
https://nypost.com/2022/07/19/critics-blast-letitia-james-for-not-releasing-findings-on-cuomos-covid-book/ Critics blast Letitia James for not releasing findings on Cuomo’s COVID book