New York ethics panel orders Cuomo to pay $5.1 million in book earnings

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(Reuters) - An ethics panel in New York on Tuesday ordered former Governor Andrew Cuomo to return $5.1 million he received for his memoir after finding he failed to follow state ethics regulations, a spokesperson with the commission said.

The Joint Commission on Public Ethics voted 12-1 to approve the order, the spokesperson said. Reuters has not seen the commission's full resolution.

Cuomo has 30 days to surrender the money he made for writing the book "American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic" to the state. The state attorney general’s office will have the authority to decide how the funds are dispersed, the New York Times reported.

In a statement, Cuomo lawyer Jim McGuire vowed to fight the order.

"JCOPE’s actions today are unconstitutional, exceed its own authority and appear to be driven by political interests rather than the facts and the law," McGuire said. "Should they seek to enforce this action, we’ll see them in court."

In November, the commission found Cuomo failed to meet state regulations that dictate the outside activities of public officials, such as writing a book in exchange for royalties or other compensation. The commission said Cuomo violated a requirement not to use state resources to complete the book and misrepresented how long it would take to complete.

Cuomo, a Democrat, stepped down as governor in August after multiple allegations of sexual misconduct. He has denied any wrongdoing.

He was initially lauded for his handling of a crippling coronavirus outbreak in New York. But praise turned to blame when media reported allegations of misconduct, including the under-reporting of nursing home deaths.

Cuomo's book was published in October 2020 by The Crown Publishing Group, a subsidiary of Penguin Random House.

Cuomo has donated $500,000 of the proceeds to charity and placed another $1 million in a trust for his daughters, the Times reported.

(Reporting by Brendan O'Brien in Chicago; Editing by Aurora Ellis)