New York ethics panel again fails to rescind approval of Cuomo book deal

The New York Joint Commission on Public Ethics met again on Tuesday, and despite even more new faces on the embattled public watchdog panel, the agency’s commissioners still could not generate enough votes to retract its approval of former Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s book deal.

A lengthy closed session period led to the departure of three commissioners who had been present at the start of the meeting when the panel returned to open session. Upon that return, the board voted 7-2 to rescind the clearance a JCOPE staffer gave Cuomo last year. However, the motion failed because it required eight yes votes to pass a measure under the commission’s arcane rules.

As a result, the deal allowing Cuomo to write a book on his management of the COVID-19 crisis during its early stages – and the $5.1 million he was allowed to pocket – remain intact. However, the Albany Times-Union reported that Commissioner Gary Lavine, who has tried repeatedly to get the book deal overturned, said he would seek a special meeting to hold another vote on the matter.

At question was whether the JCOPE staffer had the ability to approve the book deal.

One of the two “no” votes came from JCOPE Chairman Jose Nieves, who was appointed two weeks ago to the panel by Gov. Kathy Hochul. In an interview Tuesday night with the New York Post, the new chairman explained Lavine offered a “poorly worded” motion.

“I voted my conscience,” he said. “I don’t believe the new members of the commission were provided information to support the motion.”

JCOPE’s decision, though, was met with derision from legislators on both sides of the aisle who have publicly called for an overhaul of how the state handles ethics inquiries.

“Even under new leadership, JCOPE gives Cuomo a pass rather than doing its job,” tweeted Senate Ethics and Internal Governance Committee Chair Alessandra Biaggi, D-Bronx. “NY will never have integrity until we abolish JCOPE.”

State Sen. Sue Serino, R-Hyde Park, tweeted that Tuesday’s vote was just another reason why the “sham commission” needs to go.

“New Yorkers deserve real answers and accountability, not a continuation of the Cuomo-coverup,” she said.

Others who have been critical of Cuomo also slammed the agency.

Janice Dean, a New York City-based TV personality and meteorologist who became an outspoken critic of the former governor last year after her mother-in-law and father-in-law died due to COVID-19, posted on Twitter that JCOPE was designed to make it hard for politicians like the former governor to be investigated.

“Demand this be fixed and the right changes made,” she said, offering advice to candidates running for state government. “Otherwise, you’re just complicit to corruption.”

This article was originally posted on New York ethics panel again fails to rescind approval of Cuomo book deal

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