Aides of former Gov. Cuomo on hook for new legal bills

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo delivers one of his State of the State addresses in New York’s One World Trade Center building, Monday, Jan. 9, 2017. New York state must stand as an alternative to the policies and pronouncements of President-elect Donald Trump and show the nation progressive achievements, racial and religious tolerance and that big investments in education and infrastructure can create a dynamic economy that works for all, Cuomo said Monday. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

By MARINA VILLENEUVE

The Associated Press

ALBANY — New York state has stopped paying legal bills for state employees who worked for former Gov. Andrew Cuomo as he faced ongoing investigations on the state and federal level.

Gov. Kathy Hochul’s spokesperson Haley Viccaro said Wednesday that the state stopped paying for those aides’ legal bills after Sept. 2.

The administration is now deciding whether there is a legal basis for the state to pay bills for legal services on or before Sept. 2. Viccaro did not specify how many staffers had legal bills paid for by the state.

Cuomo and his former aides face an ongoing probe by the state attorney general into Cuomo’s use of state employees to help with a book he wrote about his leadership during the pandemic and scrutiny from federal prosecutors who are investigating his administration’s handling of nursing home death data. Cuomo himself is also facing a state ethics commission inquiry.

The state has agreed to pay a maximum of $9.5 million in bills for lawyers representing Cuomo and his administration over sexual harassment allegations and other matters as well as for lawyers investigating the former governor and his administration, according to The Associated Press’ review of available contracts.

That figure includes up to $5 million for lawyers who have represented Cuomo’s office.

It doesn’t include the legal fees of Cuomo’s private attorney, Rita Glavin, whose bills are being paid by his campaign committee.

It’s also unknown how much money has been paid to Paul Fishman, whose Washington, D.C.-based firm Arnold & Porter said it was representing Cuomo aides.

Viccaro didn’t say whether the state is considering requiring Cuomo aides to reimburse the state for past legal fees.

Cuomo resigned from office following an investigation overseen by Attorney General Letitia James that concluded he sexually harassed 11 women.

Cuomo — who denies touching anyone inappropriately or intending to make suggestive comments — accused the women of exaggerating or misinterpreting his behavior.

A former aide of Cuomo alleged he groped her, according to a criminal complaint that the Albany County district attorney and sheriff are investigating.

At least one woman, Lindsey Boylan, has said she intends to sue the ex-governor “and his co-conspirators” over their conduct. The investigation found Cuomo aides retaliated against Boylan.

Meanwhile, Cuomo and aides face the results of an impeachment investigation by the Assembly’s judiciary committee, though Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie has argued the body doesn’t have clear legal authority for impeaching Cuomo to prevent him from running for office again.

Judiciary Committee Chair Chuck Lavine has said the committee will release findings from their monthslong investigation, but it’s unclear when it will do so or how comprehensive they will be.

The committee has looked at whether Cuomo’s book deal violated ethics laws, sexual misconduct allegations, his administration’s handling of COVID-19 data and whether members of Cuomo’s family were unlawfully prioritized for COVID-19 testing when tests were scarce.

Lavine, a Democrat, didn’t respond to requests for comment Wednesday.

By Paul Wager