Hartman determined that JCOPE’s actions against the ex-governor would “violate due process” by failing to follow proper procedures to bring an action and overstep his authority.
“JCOPE was seeking to impose sanctions for Cuomo’s alleged violation of JCOPE’s outside activity rules,” she wrote. But state law says it can only “impose penalties for violations of statute, not for violations of JCOPE rules.”
Cuomo’s team quickly welcomed the decision.
“JCOPE’s utter lawlessness in its treatment of Governor Cuomo has been exposed and the rule of law has prevailed,” attorney Rita Glavin said in a statement. “JCOPE’s conduct was disgraceful, illegal and a waste of taxpayers’ money.”
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 revealed his administration had underestimated Covid-19 deaths in nursing homes by up to 50%.
It’s unclear whether there is a avenue to appeal the decision, since this year’s state budget abolished JCOPE and created a new ethics oversight agency.
But that doesn’t mean Cuomo is necessarily out of the woods on the various allegations in his book deal. Attorney General Tish James and Comptroller Tom DiNapoli launched a separate investigation in the book last year amid questions about Cuomo’s use of state resources to write it. This investigation is still ongoing.
Hartman’s opinion suggested that JCOPE’s replacement, the Commission on Ethics and Lobbying in Government, could try to revive actions against the ex-governor if he finally decides to do so.
This commission is not yet fully operational; commissioners will likely be approved later this month. Attempts to reach a spokesperson for the fledgling entity were not immediately successful.
JCOPE could not comment as it no longer exists.