Some lawmakers in New York are calling for former Governor Andrew Cuomo to return the money made from his coronavirus pandemic response book, which drew criticism from all angles over the last year. Specific concerns about the ethics of staff members, paid for by state tax dollars, working on the book as the worst of the pandemic unfolded and thousands died have been aired.
Now state Senator Dan Stec has questioned whether this is more than a simple matter of ‘fining’ the former governor. He could have to pay a fine up to $40,000, and reimburse the state for any wages paid to his staffers who worked on the book while also ‘on the clock’.
That topic alone has been shaky for lawmakers and political watchers to navigate – as defining ‘work’ and ‘personal’ time during an unprecedented, global health emergency is challenging.
“In the penalty provision subsection 4 does provide for a penalty that includes recoupment of the compensation or benefit received by the individual,” explained JCOPE Executive Director Judge Sanford Berland.
“There’s a lot of people that don’t think he should get a nickel of that five million dollars. Even if he did it right, it was inappropriate to write a book on that subject and enrich yourself five million dollars,” Stec said of the situation. ““When you look at the circumstances of what resources were used what about the time he spent to make this book deal happen. Time that should have been spent dealing with the issue that was at hand which was the COVID crisis.”
The money was also placed into a trust for his daughters, according to filings. But some of that, or perhaps all of it, could be recouped for state taxpayers. At that point though, the challenge becomes identifying where to put the money.
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