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 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 Associated Press review.
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 allegations against him, 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.
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 civil lawsuits from women who have accused him of sexual harassment. 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.
If Cuomo or the state is sued over his alleged conduct, the public could wind up covering legal fees and any settlement — 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. He could also potentially dip into his $18 million campaign war chest to pay legal costs, including a judgment.
If Cuomo winds up facing criminal charges over a 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.
That's what happened after former state Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno's acquittal in a fraud trial. The state reimbursed Bruno for $2.4 million in legal fees that were originally paid for by his campaign.
Additional reporting by the Associated Press.