We proudly stand ready to pay Andrew Cuomo's legal fees

We proudly stand ready to pay Andrew Cuomo's legal fees
AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, Pool

As is now well known, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is currently under investigation by so many different offices for so many different scandals that it’s truly difficult to keep track of them all. And since he has to defend himself against these accusations, he needs a legal defense team. He’s already employed some of the best in the business and is reportedly in talks with some more. None of that comes cheap, however, so his legal fees will be adding up quickly. Not to worry! Cuomo will be just fine. That’s because the taxpayers are footing the bill for all of those lawyers. As Yakov Smirnoff used to say… what a country. (Associated Press)

Taxpayers are set to foot the bill for a $2.5 million contract for lawyers representing Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office in an ongoing federal investigation over his administration’s handling of COVID-19 data in nursing homes, the governor said Wednesday.

Legal bills are mounting as Cuomo and his administration fight back allegations that he abused his power by sexually harassing and assaulting female employees and other women, publishing his COVID-19 leadership book in violation of state ethics laws, providing priority COVID-19 tests to his family in spring 2020 and minimizing the state’s tally of COVID-19 deaths among nursing home residents.

The Department of Justice and state Attorney General’s office have launched probes of such allegations, while the state Assembly judiciary committee’s separate investigation is also considering whether there are grounds to impeach Cuomo.

So how much money are we talking about here? So far there is one contract that’s been authorized with the legal firm of Morvillo Abramowitz Grand Iason & Anello in the amount of $2.5 million. That may sound like a lot, but Elkan Abramowitz will be billing us at an hourly rate of $937.50. Four other partners from the firm will get $680 per hour. Good work if you can get it, I suppose.

The first question that might cross your mind is… can he do that? According to the AP’s research, under New York State law, apparently, he can. Any such payments have to be approved by State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, but since he already approved the Abramowitz deal, it sounds like he’s going along with the program.

The loophole that allows this to happen is reportedly the fact that the Abramowitz firm is handling the investigation of the nursing home death data and the publication of Cuomo’s book. They aren’t representing Andrew Cuomo personally, you see. They’re representing “the Executive Chamber.” That somehow makes it a cost incurred by the state, not Cuomo personally. The same may not be true for the investigation of allegations of sexual harassment or assault. In those matters, Cuomo is being represented by former federal prosecutor Rita Glavin, and she hasn’t submitted any requests to the Comptroller’s office for approval. So I guess we dodged a bullet on that one. (So far)

Even if this is all technically legal, it still smells bad. If there was an investigation into policies enacted by some department inside the state’s executive branch that may have caused harm, it would be understandable that the legal fees might be billable to the taxpayer. But the nursing home fiasco seemed to be all Cuomo’s personal doing. That’s even more true when it comes to using his office staff to do work on the publication of his book while on the clock. That doesn’t sound like an investigation into the state government. They’re investigating the individual actions of one person… Andrew Cuomo.

Of course, we’re talking about New York here, and I’ve been dealing with these jokers for a long time. Should I really be surprised? Once you get your foot in the door of the state government, there are all sorts of goodies awaiting you, and passing the bill to the taxpayers is just how things work. Just ask Sheldon Silver if he ever gets out of jail.

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David Strom 6:41 PM on January 26, 2023