Bet one ex-governor is hoping third time’s not the charm!
Commissioners on the state’s watchdog panel — the Joint Commission on Public Ethics — were set to meet Thursday in a virtual huddle to discuss yet another attempt at revoking the agency’s prior approval of disgraced ex-Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s $5.1 million book deal, The Post has learned.
JCOPE officials planned a private conference call Thursday afternoon to talk about whether or not they have enough votes to try and claw back the rubber stamp on Cuomo’s “American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic” at their next meeting set for Nov. 16.
A group of commissioners have been pressuring Gov. Kathy Hochul’s new chairman, Jose Nieves, to reconsider the move after he was the deciding ‘no’ vote at the body’s last meeting in October.
“This is not a meeting to take official action, but it’s to discuss legal matters in connection with the question of whether we can revoke Martin Levine’s opinion of the book deal,” said a source familiar with the call.
“The chairman asserts he’s trying to get a consensus on a resolution to revoke Martin Lavine’s approval of the book deal — he said it several times in the last ten days.”
The source said there are at least eight ‘yes’ votes needed to revoke the opinion — as eight votes from the 14 member panel is the threshold needed for a measure to pass.
The source added that Nieves appears “ready” to support rescinding the approval of ‘American Crisis’ granted in the summer of 2020 — but wants to make sure that at least a majority of JCOPE’s 14 commissioners are on board.
Should JCOPE revoke approval, Cuomo would have to reapply for their OK, and if denied then the body could claw back some if not all of the $5.1 million profit to be returned to Crown Publishing.
Nieves defended his ‘no’ vote at the last meeting, arguing as one of the new JCOPE members he didn’t have enough knowledge of the matter to vote in favor.
Since then, commissioners have been talking via email and phone, calling on Nieves to hold either a special meeting or at the very least meet informally to go over next steps.
There’s another division amongst commissioners, said the source, as JCOPE staff have raised the possibility of investigating the panel’s book deal’s approval before it moves to revoke the deal, said the source.
JCOPE board members already voted to launch an independent probe of their own internal operations and circumstances leading to the book deal’s approval, several measures to actually claw back JCOPE’s greenlight have stalled.
When reached by phone Wednesday for more information on the call, Nieves told The Post “any kind of discussion like that is confidential.”
“We are constantly meeting informally to communicate informally,” he added.
Revoking the book deal has been a controversial topic since commissioners found out the approval was granted in secrecy by JCOPE staff during the summer of 2020 instead of by a full panel vote.
Martin Levine, JCOPE’s deputy general and then co-executive director, last year approved Cuomo’s profit-making book contract. Cuomo agreed state government resources would not be used to prepare the book under the ethics agreement with JCOPE.
Commissioner Gary Lavine, a Republican appointed by state Sen. Minority Leader Rob Ortt, introduced the motion on at least two prior occasions arguing although the book deal was OK’ed “material facts that were omitted” or “misrepresentations.”
Lavine and other commissioners believe Cuomo did not disclose that government resources — including staffers — would be used to write, edit and advance the book.
Cuomo is also under criminal investigation by state Attorney General for his book deal and is also under a separate probe by the FBI/US Eastern District of New York.
A spokesman for JCOPE did not return a request for comment.
Additional reporting by Carl Campanile