ALBANY, NY – Stepping down probably hasn’t ended former Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s legal problems, and whatever happens next, taxpayers are likely to be left with a hefty bill.
The state has already agreed to pay up to $ 9.5 million to lawyers representing and investigating Cuomo and his administration over allegations of sexual harassment and other matters, according to Associated Press review of contracts available.
That figure – which represents the maximum amount that could be spent, and not the actual invoices submitted so far – includes up to $ 5 million for the attorneys who have represented Cuomo’s office, up to $ 3 million. $ 5 million for lawyers hired by the state attorney general to investigate allegations of sexual harassment. against the Democrat, and at least $ 1 million in bills for lawyers hired by the legislature in connection with an impeachment inquiry. This does not include legal fees for Cuomo’s private attorney, Rita Glavin, whose bills are paid by her campaign committee.
Cuomo’s successor, Governor Kathy Hochul, can decide whether the state will continue to pay lawyers to defend the former governor and his administration in the future.
Cuomo, a Democrat, and his administration face the possibility of civil lawsuits from women who have accused him of sexual harassment. The Albany sheriff is investigating a groped allegation. The state attorney general is examining Cuomo’s use of state employees to help with a book he wrote. Federal prosecutors are investigating his administration’s handling of nursing home death data. He is also facing an investigation by the state ethics commission.
“We will review all legal contracts and make appropriate decisions on the need for legal representation and on the prosecution of any contracts,” Hochul spokeswoman Haley Viccaro said.
Cuomo resigned from his post following an investigation overseen by Attorney General Letitia alleged 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.
At least one woman, Lindsey Boylan, has said she intends to prosecute the ex-governor “and his co-conspirators” for their conduct. The investigation revealed that Cuomo’s aides retaliated against Boylan. The former senior assistant testified that Cuomo touched her waist, legs and back, made inappropriate comments calling her attractive, suggested they play strip poker on a plane and once gave her a unwanted kiss on the lips.
Other costumes seem likely.
The attorney for another accuser, Charlotte Bennett, who said Cuomo asked questions about his personal life that led him to believe he was pursuing a sexual relationship with her, suggested that the state had l ‘obligation to compensate women in order to avoid “costly and lengthy” litigation.
“I think if there is to be any proper conclusion to this, it must be to make the victims of his misconduct whole,” said Debra Katz, lawyer for Cuomo’s former assistant Charlotte Bennett.
If Cuomo or the state are sued for his alleged conduct, the public could end up covering legal fees and any settlements – normally individuals sued for their conduct as state employees are defended at the expense of the state.
Cuomo, however, could also face individual liability if a court finds he did something wrong.
As governor, he signed a law that requires state employees who commit sexual harassment on the job to reimburse the state for any judgments rendered because of their wrongdoing.
The attorney general’s office may play a role in deciding whether to cover Cuomo’s legal fees, said Andrew Celli, who was a former head of the civil rights office in then attorney general’s office, Eliot Spitzer.
“Whatever he does in his next life he has to be able to pay these lawyers and run them and it’s going to be expensive and time consuming,” Celli said.
Cuomo could also potentially tap into his $ 18 million campaign war chest to pay court costs, including a judgment.
“If a private person sues him and it concerns his public service or previous campaigns, then he can use campaign funds to pay lawyers,” said Jerry Goldfeder, veteran election lawyer, former special advocate for the public integrity of then Attorney General Cuomo. .
If Cuomo were to face criminal charges for a groped allegation made by a former aide, he would likely have to pay for his own defense attorney. But under state law, he could seek reimbursement from the state if he was acquitted on the grounds that the allegations related to his work.
This is what happened after the acquittal of the former state Senate majority leader, Joseph Bruno, in a fraud trial. The state reimbursed Bruno $ 2.4 million in legal fees initially paid by his campaign.