New York’s new ethics committee wants to prevent another scandal

New York State’s newly formed ethics panel said Friday it would implement safeguards – dubbed the “Andrew Cuomo Rules” – that would prevent the approval of fat-book contracts by a governor or statewide official without input from commissioners .

Reports released by the State Assembly and the much-criticized Joint Commission on Public Ethics — a now-defunct body replaced months ago by the State Commission on Ethics and Lobbying — detail how Cuomo, from his memoir American Crisis: Leadership “ 2020 benefited from lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic” under questionable circumstances.

Cuomo, who denied any wrongdoing, was given permission to sign off on the lucrative $5.1 million deal with Penguin Books by a lawyer for JCOPE – an agency known to dominate – before the reports according to government resources to help him create the 309-page tribute to his own pandemic response.

JCOPE’s commissioners never voted to approve the book deal, and some were not even aware of the details.

After Cuomo resigned last year amid a pending impeachment and multiple sexual harassment allegations and investigations, a red-faced JCOPE — derisively dubbed “JJOKE” by critics — belatedly rescinded his approval of the book deal after alleging Cuomo and his attorneys would they have been misled by the use of top executives and other government officials to create the book.

Andrew Cuomo speaks during a news conference at the National Press Club in Washington May 27, 2020.
Andrew Cuomo resigned in disgrace while investigations into impeachment and sexual harassment were pending.

The matter ended up in court and Cuomo has been able to keep the book proceeds so far.

During a meeting on Friday, Sanford Berland, executive director of the government’s ethics and lobbying commission, said “commissioners would be informed of any requests” regarding external revenue for a nationally elected official.

“There would be no action without the commissioners being informed.”

He said the new law creating the panel, as well as recommendations from an outside law firm likely to be adopted by the panel, will require commissioners to vote on whether to approve or deny requests for external income from a governor or other state-elected official must. and do not delegate the matter to an employee.

The cover of "American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the Covid-19 Pandemic"
Cuomo signed a $5.1 million deal with Penguin Books for his memoir, American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic.

Berland’s comments were preceded by two commissioners who said they wanted to make it clear that staff would no longer unilaterally decide such external revenue requests from powerful elected officials.

“We should reflect that in the minutes,” said the panel’s chair, Frederick Davies.

The commissioners said they would have their Judiciary Committee review a list of recommendations from an outside law firm, Hogan Lovells, to strengthen the panels’ scrutiny of outside income claims.

Andrew Cuomo holds a press conference in New York on May 3, 2021.
Cuomo has been able to keep the proceeds from his memoir so far.
AFP via Getty Images

“The successor agency [to JCOPE] should require that any request for outside activity by a statewide officeholder be decided by a vote of the commissioners,” said the Hogan Lovell law firm’s report.

The ethics agency should also establish a list of information and documents to be submitted in connection with all outside employment requests and have a “standard waiting time” for such requests.

Critics complained that the Cuomo book deal was rushed through.

Cuomo spokesman Richard Azzopardi said the new ethics panel has the right to set its own rules, but insisted on Friday that the ex-governor and his team were complying with all rules in effect at the time the book deal was approved.

“As we have said from the beginning, despite their many setbacks and hypocrisy, JCOPE received all the information they needed about the book deal and JCOPE’s independent law firm has confirmed this,” Azzopardi said. New York’s new ethics committee wants to prevent another scandal


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