Hochul cuts money for Cuomo assistants’ legal bills

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Former staff of the former governor. Andrew Cuomo was told earlier this month by new senior attorney in Gov.’s administration Kathy Hochul that their legal bills would no longer be covered by the state, according to an email reviewed by Spectrum News 1.

The email, sent by Hochul attorney Elizabeth Fine on September 2 to law firms representing former Cuomo associates, said the governor’s office was reviewing the legal basis for approving the payment of attorney’s fees earlier.

At the same time, the governor’s office will not approve new bills after September 2, Fine wrote.

The email was sent amid the ongoing investigation into the former Cuomo administration by the Assembly Judiciary Committee.

A source from Cuomo said this week that the lack of legal representation for former staff members amid the ongoing investigation could undermine the committee’s next report, which could be released in early October.

“Who is going to spend tens of thousands of dollars out of their own pocket to participate in a bogus political report that has no real legal significance?” Said the source. “No one I know does that. Leave me alone!”

But the top Republican in the assembly inquiry, MK Michael Montesano, said in an interview on Tuesday that he suspected allies of the former governor of trying to undermine the broad legislative inquiry.

“There is no doubt in my mind,” Montesano said of the efforts to discredit the legislative inquiry. “There wasn’t much they could do with the attorney general’s business, and now they’re going after us because there’s a lot going on.”

It’s unclear how many former Cuomo staff members had their legal fees paid for by the state. It’s also unclear how many former aides whose legal bills were covered by the state were questioned after Fine’s email announcing that public money would no longer be used.

Messages to the Hochul office sent on Monday and Tuesday, along with a list of questions, were not returned. MP Charles Lavine, the Democratic lawmaker who heads the judiciary commission, declined to comment through a spokesperson.

Cuomo resigned on August 24 amid allegations in a report by Attorney General Letitia James’s office that he sexually harassed 11 women.

Earlier this year, the Assembly committee launched an inquiry into possible impeachment.

The investigation sparked multiple controversies that Cuomo faced for much of the year, including allegations that the governor’s office provided preferential COVID-19 testing to loved ones when supplies were scarce, the report said. deaths of nursing home residents, construction of the replacement for the Tappan Zee Bridge, the alleged use of government resources to help him write a book on the pandemic, as well as allegations of sexual harassment.

Cuomo has denied any wrongdoing.

On August 13, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie announced that the impeachment inquiry would be suspended following Cuomo’s planned resignation. But Heastie backed down a few days later and the investigation resumed.

Montesano, the legislature of the assembly, said on Tuesday that witnesses questioned by the committee did not need a lawyer present; the investigation is not a criminal investigation. A status meeting with the committee and the law firm hired to conduct the investigation is expected shortly, he said.

The investigation interviewed a series of witnesses, both inside and outside the state government in the days leading up to Fine’s email.

Montesano on August 31 wrote a letter to Hochul’s office urging him to withhold payments of public funds to attorneys representing Cuomo.

“The repeated scandals of the Cuomo administration have been costly in terms of the financial price for taxpayers and the credibility of the government institution,” he wrote in the letter. “As the 57th Governor, you are in a unique position to address both of these issues.”


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