ALBANY, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Former Gov. Andrew Cuomo finds himself mired in another controversy after a state ethics panel voted to rescind approval of his big-money book deal.

You might ask what’s the big deal about the panel’s decision? Well, it turns out it could cost the former governor, who has yet to find gainful employment, a whole lot of Simoleons, because it paves the way for officials to claw back some, or all, of the $5.1 million he was paid, CBS2’s Marcia Kramer reported Tuesday.

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“Some people volunteered to help on the book,” Cuomo said back on April 19.

That was Cuomo’s story about how state staffers came to help him out while he was working on his book about how he dealt with the COVID-19 pandemic, and he’s sticking to it.

The problem is the Joint Commission on Public Ethics, informally known as JCOPE, isn’t buying it.

After several tries, it voted to rescind approval for Cuomo to write the book, pointing out that the group originally greenlighted the project based on the promise that no government staffers would be used to help edit and produce it.

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The ruling means the former 800-pound gorilla in Albany political circles will now have to come hat in hand and beg JCOPE’s commissioners to approve the deal again. If they don’t, the commissioners could try to force Cuomo repay the largess to his book publisher.

Team Cuomo erupted in fury, blaming Gov. Kathy Hochul and the state Legislature for playing politics.

“These JCOPE members are acting outside the scope of their authority and are carrying the water of the politicians who appointed them. It is the height of hypocrisy for Hochul and the Legislature’s appointees to take this position, given that these elected officials routinely use their own staff for political and personal assistance on their own time. They are truly a j-joke,” said Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi.

Cuomo’s lawyer, Jim McGuire, turned it up a notch, saying, “We look forward to vigorously contesting any efforts JCOPE makes to enforce this baseless and improper decision.”

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Of course, Cuomo’s publishers would probably be thrilled to get their money back. When he resigned in August, the book, which was originally published in October 2020, had only sold about 50,000 copies.

Marcia Kramer