Hartman determined that JCOPE’s actions against the ex-governor would “violate due process” by not following the proper procedures for bringing an action and overstepping its authority.
“JCOPE was seeking to impose sanctions for Cuomo’s alleged non-compliance with JCOPE’s outside activities rules,” she wrote. But state law says it can “impose sanctions only for violation of the statute, not for violations of JCOPE’s rules.”
Cuomo’s team quickly praised the decision.
“JCOPE’s utter lawlessness in its treatment of Governor Cuomo has been exposed and the rule of law prevailed,” attorney Rita Glavin said in a statement. “JCOPE’s conduct was shameful, unlawful, and a waste of taxpayer’s funds.”
The Democratic governor resigned a year ago amid sexual harassment allegations, and the book was widely criticized for its large payout to Cuomo and months later when a state report found his administration undercounted Covid-19 deaths in nursing homes by as much as 50 percent.
It is not clear whether there’s a path to appealing the decision, since this year’s state budget abolished JCOPE and created a new ethics watchdog agency.
But that does not mean Cuomo is necessarily out of the woods on the various allegations into his book deal. Attorney General Tish James and Comptroller Tom DiNapoli launched a separate probe into the book last year amid questions over Cuomo’s use of state resources to write it. That probe is still ongoing.
Hartman’s opinion suggested that JCOPE’s replacement, the Commission on Ethics and Lobbying in Government, would be able to attempt to restart actions against the ex-governor if it eventually chooses.
That commission is not yet fully running; commissioners will likely be approved later this month. Attempts to reach a spokesperson for the nascent entity were not immediately successful.
JCOPE could not comment since it no longer exists.
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