It’s time to unpack some of the reportedly unorthodox methods Governor Andrew Cuomo used to garner approval to write his latest book, as well as his first book.
According to reports in the Albany Times Union and the Buffalo News, JCOPE commissioners (Joint Commission on Public Ethics) never voted to approve either of Gov. Cuomo’s book deals. Instead, the governor's requests were approved by commission staffers.
When asked if that’s standard operating procedure, former JCOPE commissioner and retired State Supreme Court Justice Penny Wolfgang told Capital Tonight that there are a couple of ways an elected official may seek guidance from the ethics body.
"One is an informal opinion, by calling a staffer," she said. "The other is by trying to get a formal opinion - a formal, binding opinion. That would be required from the Commission itself."
"You can, however, as it appears in this instance, get an informal opinion from a staffer, if that’s what you are looking for."
When asked what the governor should have been looking for, Wolfgang responded that it might have been more advantageous for the governor to obtain a formal opinion.
"It certainly would be a safer procedure, I guess, from the public’s view, and as it turns out, it certainly would have been more advantageous for the governor to apply for a formal binding opinion as to whether he could get outside income," she said.
The latest book’s approval was provided after the governor’s special counsel sent a letter to JCOPE outlining the “guideposts” that Cuomo would adhere to. For example, he wouldn’t use state property, personnel or other governmental resources in the writing of the book.
As the New York Times reported this week, the governor appears not to have followed the guideposts outlined by his special counsel.