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Cuomo's lawyers are working, but not getting paid

Apr 19, 2021 2:15 pm

Chris Bragg is reporting for the Times Union Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has engaged the services of four law firms as he faces investigation by the state attorney general's office into multiple allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct, and a separate investigation by the FBI and U.S. attorney's office looking into whether the governor's administration deliberately manipulated data on nursing home deaths during the coronavirus pandemic. Both investigations have caused senior aides and other members of the governor's administration to retain private counsel, as well. But while the work by the private attorneys has been underway for almost two months, details about the legal arrangements remain unclear. None of the contracts for legal services have been submitted for approval to Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli’s office, a potential violation of state finance law. The governor’s office is not forthcoming as to whether the governor will front the money for the attorneys retained to represent him personally. It is also unclear whether taxpayer funds will pay for other state officials’ legal costs, including members of the governor's coronavirus task force. DiNapoli’s office says any contract over $50,000 cannot be executed or become effective until it is authorized by the comptroller’s office. Matthew Ryan, a spokesman for DiNapoli, said Cuomo’s office has not submitted any of the legal contracts for approval. In a statement, Cuomo senior advisor Richard Azzopardi said none of the four law firms have been paid money. “We are in the process of finalizing these contracts and related documents for review and approval by the comptroller’s office,” Azzopardi said. “We are abiding by all applicable rules and standards and in matters like this it is not uncommon for legal representation to begin while the contracts are simultaneously being drafted for submission. Doing it the other way could potentially leave the Chamber and its employees without representation.” Azzopardi did not answer questions about whether taxpayers would be paying for all of the work. "The contracts are working their way through the process and when they are publicly available you will likely be the first to know,” he said. The question of reimbursement could also arise for other state officials. For instance, witnesses that testify before grand juries are often eligible to have their legal fees reimbursed by the state. Read the full story in the Times Union.