New York Taxpayers Will Pay Millions for Andrew Cuomo's Legal Fees, Despite His Resignation

New York taxpayers will pay millions for former Gov. Andrew Cuomo's legal fees, despite his resignation, as individuals sued over their conduct while working as state employees are usually defended using state funds.

The state has already agreed to pay up to $9.5 million to the lawyers who represented and investigated the former governor and his administration, according to a review of the available contracts by the Associated Press.

Cuomo may also face individual liability if a court finds him guilty since he signed a law as governor obligating state employees who commit sexual harassment on the job to reimburse the state for any settlements paid out for their actions.

"Whatever he does in his next life, he needs to be able to pay those lawyers and direct them and it's going to be expensive and time-consuming," said Andrew Celli, a former civil rights bureau chief for then-Attorney General Eliot Spitzer.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Andrew Cuomo
New York taxpayers may end up paying millions for Andrew Cuomo's legal fees, as state employees are usually defended using state funds. Former Gov. Cuomo speaks during his daily press briefing on May 1, 2020 in Albany, N.Y. Stefani Reynolds/Getty Images

That $9.5 million — 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.

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. 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.

"We will be reviewing all legal contracts and making appropriate decisions on the need for legal representation and whether to continue any contracts," Hochul's spokesperson, Haley Viccaro, said.

Cuomo resigned from office following an investigation overseen by Attorney General Letitia James that concluded 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 sue the ex-governor "and his co-conspirators" over their conduct. The investigation found Cuomo aides retaliated against Boylan. The former senior aide testified 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 an unwanted kiss on the lips.

Other suits seem likely.

An attorney for another accuser, Charlotte Bennett, who said Cuomo asked questions about her personal life that led her to believe he was pursuing a sexual relationship with her, suggested the state has an obligation to compensate the women in order to avoid "costly and lengthy" litigation.

"I believe if there is going to be any kind of appropriate conclusion to this, it has to be to make the victims of his misconduct whole," Debra Katz, attorney for former Cuomo aide Charlotte Bennett, said.

Cuomo could potentially dip into his $18 million campaign war chest to pay legal costs, including a judgment.

"If a private person sues him and it relates to his public office or his previous campaigns, then he can use campaign funds to pay lawyers," veteran elections lawyer Jerry Goldfeder, former Special Counsel for Public Integrity to then-Attorney General Cuomo, said.

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.

Cuomo Sexual Harassment
Resigning from office probably didn’t end Andrew Cuomo’s legal problems, and no matter what happens next, taxpayers are likely to wind up with a hefty bill. New York Gov. Cuomo speaks during a news conference, Monday, May 10, 2021 in New York. Mary Altaffer, Pool/AP Photo