Former Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Friday filed a legal challenge against the state's main ethics and lobbying regulatory agency as officials there seek to claw back proceeds he received from a $5.1 million book deal.
"Simply stated, never in the history of New York State has an agency so breathtakingly and irresponsibly prejudged a matter on which it is the final decisionmaker," a filing made public Friday by Cuomo's lawyers stated.
The lawsuit pits Cuomo, who resigned from office last August, against the Joint Commission on Public Ethics, a panel of appointed officials he was instrumental in creating nearly a decade ago as part of an effort to better enforce ethics rules in state government.
The suit also comes as state lawmakers and Gov. Kathy Hochul are weighing an overhaul of the oft-maligned ethics agency, which had previously been accused of being too close to the former governor's administration.
Staff at the commission had initially signed off on Cuomo's book deal in 2020. Cuomo would later release "American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from COVID-19 Pandemic" as a memoir of the early days of the public health crisis.
Judith Mogul, a counsel in Cuomo's office at the time, signed off on Cuomo writing the book in his free time, as well as the use of government aides to help him write the book when they were not working on public time.
But the book soon garnered controversy for Cuomo, who would resign nearly a year later amid allegations of sexual harassment and inappropriate conduct. Cuomo and his legal team have denied any wrongdoing.
The commission later rescinded the approval for Cuomo to write the book, and an investigation released in 2021 by the Democratic-led Assembly Judiciary Committee found Cuomo used government officials to him write the book, with several telling investigators they did not feel doing so was optional.
Cuomo has denied the work on the book was inappropriate or illegal. Through his attorney, Cuomo has blasted the commission's effort to claw back proceeds from the book, and for months had strongly hinted he would file a legal challenge to the effort.