Hochul doesn’t know appointee who let Cuomo keep book deal

Gov. Kathy Hochul said Wednesday that she “literally” doesn’t know the former judge she appointed to the state’s ethics panel — who turned around and cast the deciding vote to let her disgraced predecessor keep $5.1 million from his controversial book deal.

During a news conference in Albany, Hochul was asked by The Post about Monday’s ruling by the Joint Commission on Public Ethics regarding last year’s authorization for then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo to sell the lucrative rights to his coronavirus memoir.

An effort to rescind the permission — which was granted in secret by a JCOPE lawyer — failed when newly named Commissioner Randall Hinrichs, a former Suffolk County district administrative judge, sided with Cuomo immediately after Hochul announced his appointment.

“What happened yesterday was as a result of two resignations. In order for there to be any business going forward, I had to appoint somebody,” Hochul said Wednesday.

“I had to find an individual, an individual who is highly recommended, who has credentials, but literally is unknown to me.”

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Hochul added: “You know, I want to make sure that we are not stacking these bodies with our friends and with our allies, as had been in the past.”

When pressed by The Post to say where she stood on whether the state should claw back Cuomo’s earnings from last year’s “American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic,” Hochul declined to answer.

Cuomo’s book deal is the subject of a pending criminal probe by state Attorney General Letitia James.
Crown via AP

“What JCOPE does, I’m not going to comment on their investigation. That’s wildly inappropriate for me to do so,” she said.

“Now, if someone’s gonna infer from that, that I’m trying to cut a better deal for the governor, I think it’s well known that we’ve not been close…So, before people make certain assumptions that are highly erroneous: They are wrong.”

Hochul’s latter remarks appeared aimed at state Assemblyman Ron Kim (D-Queens), who on Tuesday told The Post that the JCOPE vote “conveys that Kathy Hochul is not concerned about holding Cuomo accountable or rooting out corruption in Albany.”

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Hochul also didn’t respond to a Post question about why she left a seat vacant on the JCOPE board, which is supposed to have 14 members, before Tuesday’s meeting.

The vote was 7-to-6 against Cuomo, who resigned last month amid a sexual harassment scandal. But the motion to revoke his book-deal authorization failed because the board’s rules require an eight-vote majority for official action.

Cuomo’s book deal is the subject of a pending criminal probe by state Attorney General Letitia James and is apparently also under investigation by federal law enforcement authorities.

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