Former Governor Andrew M. Cuomo sued the New York Ethics Committee on Friday, arguing that its attempts to force him to transfer the proceeds of a $5.1 million book deal were a violation of his constitutional rights. .
The dispute revolves around the commission’s approval of Mr Cuomo’s memoirs for 2020 — a decision she reversed last year over what she believed was a misrepresentation of, among other things, his use of state resources.
When the panel, the Joint Commission on Public Ethics, Mr. Cuomo ordered the proceeds of the book to be turned over, but the prosecutor’s office refused to enforce the directive.
In the lawsuit, filed in the Albany state Supreme Court, Mr. Cuomo is seeking to block such an investigation, arguing that the committee’s previous actions and what the lawsuit characterizes as adverse comments showed that they were already aware of his guilt. had decided.
“Never in New York history has an agency so breathlessly and irresponsibly anticipated a case over which it is the ultimate decision maker,” Mr Cuomo’s court records read.
A spokesperson for the ethics committee declined to comment.
The lawsuit is the latest example of the visible and aggressive stance Mr Cuomo, who stepped down as governor in August, has taken since his return to public life in recent months.
Mr Cuomo’s resignation came after a report from Attorney General Letitia James found that he had sexually harassed several women, including some who worked for him. Mr Cuomo has denied any harassment.
After several months in seclusion, Mr. Cuomo has resurfaced lately. He has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on television ads to promote his achievements as governor, spoke at two churches and began to switch from talking about his personal problems to broader political themes.
Where he once expressed remorse saying he was “too familiar with people”, he now blames “culture canceling” for forcing his resignation.
The lawsuit filed against the Ethics Committee fits that pattern, with Mr. Cuomo insisting he did nothing wrong.
Mr. Cuomo has repeatedly said that no state resources were used in the drafting of his book, “American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the Covid-19 Pandemic,” and that all staff who worked on the project had done so on their own time. . The committee has questioned that assertion.
An extensive investigation by the State Assembly into whether Mr. Cuomo abused his power has since found that Mr. Cuomo has “used the time of multiple state employees, as well as his own, to further his personal gain during a global pandemic. ”
After the committee withdrew its consent to the book deal, saying that Mr. Cuomo got it under false pretenses, she went a step further.
“In the absence of JCOPE’s approval of its outside activity in connection with the book, Governor Cuomo has no legal right to withhold the compensation paid to him,” the panel said in a December resolution ordering him to return the book proceeds. to pay, which were reported to total $5.1 million.
But after the attorney general’s office refused to enforce the injunction, the commission moved ahead with the legal process for a formal hearing, which Mr. Cuomo’s team is now trying to quash.
Mr. Cuomo’s attorneys argue the commission biased him, saying its previous statements — including in a hearing that the evidence against the former governor was “overwhelming,” “irrefutable” and “beyond doubt” — incapable of being impartial as to whether he had broken the law.
For years, the Ethics Committee has been vilified by government watchdog groups for its perceived vulnerability to political influence. Powerless and contrary to the commission, Mr. Cuomo took on that task.
The lawsuit comes amid signs that the commission’s future is shaky. State government leaders have indicated they expect to establish a replacement body as part of this year’s state budget, although the final form of the new entity has yet to be determined.
Governor Kathy Hochul had proposed a new way of forming such a panel that would give law school deans, rather than lawmakers, the final say on nominations. An alternative plan has since taken shape among legislators. It is said to retain nomination power with them, but it has been sharply criticized by watchdog groups.
“New Yorkers deserve a truly independent commission that doesn’t simply replace one flawed political entity with another,” a coalition of such groups said in a statement Wednesday.