State Attorney General Letitia James opened a criminal probe 15 months ago into whether ex-Gov. Andrew Cuomo illegally used state employees and other taxpayer resources to work on his controversial profit-making $5 million pandemic memoir.
Now ethics watchdogs and families of COVID-19 nursing home victims are asking, ‘Where’s the beef?’
“There is no evidence of an active investigation that I’m aware of. So far as I can ascertain there is no action by the attorney general,” said Gary Lavine, a Republican Senate appointee to the new state commission on Ethics in Lobbying and Government, who previously served on the Joint Commission on Public Ethics.
Tracy Alvino, whose father, Daniel, died of COVID-19 in a West Islip nursing home in 2020, suspected election-year politics, is coming into play. James, who considered and then backed out of running for governor, is seeking re-election as attorney general this fall.
“There’s no reason we haven’t got any answers by now. This should be a slam dunk against Cuomo’s blood money book of lies written on the graves of 15,000 nursing home residents,” Alvino said.
“This is all about the political calendar,” she said.
James’ office said the Cuomo book probe is “ongoing” but declined further comment.
By comparison, the attorney general’s devastating investigative report that concluded that Cuomo sexually harassed or mistreated a slew of women, which forced the three-term ex-governor’s resignation under the threat of impeachment, was completed in five months, from March until August of 2021 — much faster than the book inquiry.
There is no dispute that Cuomo relied heavily on top government aids to help prepare the book — “American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic.”
The central question is whether he violated the Public Officers Law by doing so.
Investigations by the Assembly Judiciary Committee and later JCOPE both blasted Cuomo’s use of staffers to craft the book for hefty personal profit in the middle of the pandemic.
“It makes a mockery of the Public Officers Law if Cuomo gets away with using his staff and office for personal profit,” a source close to the Assembly’s impeachment probe of the ex-governor told The Post Tuesday.
Cuomo’s camp said staffers volunteered to work on the book on their personal time, which they maintain is legal.
James’ Republican opponent for attorney general, Michael Henryaccused her of sitting on the results.
“Now that Letitia James isn’t running for Governor, she’s failed to release her findings on the Cuomo book scandal and potential violations of the Public Officers Law. New Yorkers, and especially grieving nursing home families, demand to see the results,” Henry said.
One government expert wondered whether JCOPE — by first approving the Cuomo book deal — doomed the chances of bringing a criminal case against him.
JCOPE belatedly revoked Its approval of the book deal and has sought to force Cuomo to cough up the profits, which is the subject of litigation. But but the damage was done.
“JCOPE might have made it impossible to prosecute by approving the book deal in the first place. The attorney general’ office may not believe it has a winnable case,” said John Kaehny, executive director of Reinvent Albany.
Still, Kaehny said it’s wrong to sit on the findings, if the AG’s office has reached a conclusion.
“That’s one of the oldest dodges used by officials to avoid accountability, `We’re still investigating,” Kaehny said. “It’s not fair to the accused — whatever you think of him — or the public,” he said.
Cuomo insisted he acted appropriately when seeking approval of the book deal.
“As we’ve said all along, JCOPE was provided with everything they needed — including the subject matter — to approve the book and, on advice of counsel, anyone who volunteered to help on the project did so on their own time as was reflected on their time sheets,” said Cuomo spokesman Richard Azzopardi.
James received a referral from state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli in April of 2021 to “investigate the alleged commission of any indictable offense or offenses” related to the Cuomo book. The comptroller releases funds for the state payroll.
Meanwhile, the new state commission on lobbying and ethics in government will have to decide whether to continue fighting Cuomo in court over the book profits when it convenes.