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Cuomo's Legal Woes Could Cost Taxpayers Millions

New governor can decide whether state will continue to pay Cuomo's lawyers
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Sep 1, 2021 12:01 AM CDT
Cuomo's Legal Woes Could Cost the Public $9.5M
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks during a news conference, Monday, May 10, 2021 in New York.   (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, Pool)

(Newser) – Resigning from office probably didn’t end former Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s legal problems, and no matter what happens next, taxpayers are likely to wind up with a hefty bill, the AP reports. The state has already agreed to pay up to $9.5 million to lawyers representing and investigating Cuomo and his administration over sexual harassment allegations and other matters, according to an AP review of available contracts. That figure—which represents the maximum amount that could be spent, not actual bills submitted so far—includes up to $5 million for lawyers who have represented Cuomo’s office, up to $3.5 million for lawyers hired by the state attorney general to investigate sexual harassment allegations against the Democrat, and at least $1 million in bills for lawyers hired by the legislature as part of an impeachment investigation. It doesn’t include the legal fees of Cuomo’s private attorney, Rita Glavin, whose bills are being paid by his campaign committee.

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Cuomo’s successor, Gov. Kathy Hochul, can decide whether the state will continue to pay lawyers to defend the former governor and his administration going forward. Cuomo, a Democrat, and his administration face the possibility of civil lawsuits from women who have accused him of sexual harassment. At least one woman, Lindsey Boylan, has said she intends to sue the ex-governor “and his co-conspirators” over their conduct; other suits seem likely. The Albany sheriff is investigating a groping allegation. The state attorney general is looking into 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’s also facing a state ethics commission inquiry.

Normally, individuals sued over their conduct as state employees are defended on the state’s dime. Cuomo, however, could also face individual liability if a court concludes he did something wrong. As governor, he signed a law that obligates state employees who commit sexual harassment on the job to reimburse the state for any judgements paid out because of their wrongdoing. Cuomo could potentially dip into his $18 million campaign war chest to pay legal costs, including a judgment. If he winds up facing criminal charges over the groping allegation made by a former aide, he would likely have to pay for his own defense lawyer. But under state law, he could seek reimbursement from the state if he were to be acquitted on the grounds that the allegations had to do with his job.

(Read more Andrew Cuomo stories.)

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