Gov. Kathy Hochul is attempting to spend up to $5 million in taxpayers’ money to pay the legal fees of dozens of current and former state employees implicated in the sexual harassment scandal that forced ex-Governor Andrew Cuomo out of office, it said learned the mail.
The move could benefit Cuomo cronies who have remained loyal to the disgraced ex-governor until the end of his scandal-ridden tenure — including former assistant Melissa DeRosa.
But DeRosa, when reached by phone Wednesday night, said, “I am not seeking reimbursement for either the nursing home investigations or the Attorney General’s sexual harassment investigations.”
She added, however, that it was “appropriate” for the other civil servants to receive reimbursement for outside lawyers on the advice of the state.
Hochul has discussed the matter with Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli and Attorney General Letitia James, sources familiar with the matter said.
Sources said Hochul was working to determine what legal options exist that would allow the state to foot the bills.
The governor’s office expects law firms representing about 30 current and former chamber employees to seek such reimbursement, which is estimated at up to $5 million, a source said.
The spending would either be included in the 2023 state budget, which is due April 1, or come from a special fund that covers the cost of court cases against the state, sources said.
A source scoffed at the idea of using taxpayers’ money, suggesting Cuomo tapped into his campaign fund to pay the bill.
“After everything he’s done to his staff, why doesn’t he spend a few of his millions to help?” the source said.
In June 2021 — less than two months before his resignation — Cuomo signed a bill authorizing lawmakers to tap the $156 million fund to fund an Assembly impeachment investigation against him.
State officials hired private attorneys on the advice of Cuomo’s former special counsel and senior adviser Beth Garvey, after James launched an investigation that led to a blockbuster report in which she accused the three-time governor of sexually harassing 11 current or former state employees have said source.
Cuomo has denied any wrongdoing, but admitted in his resignation speech, “There are generational and cultural changes that I just don’t fully appreciate.”
None of the statutory alimony agreements signed by the workers have been pre-approved by the Comptroller’s Office and several of them have been unable to recover their bills, the source said.
It’s unclear if Hochul will try to prevent DeRosa or others accused by James of “retaliating” against Cuomo’s accusers from paying their bills. The source said “it’s premature” but added that Hochul was evaluating all “legal options”.
A Hochul spokeswoman confirmed the effort, saying, “We believe that well-meaning government officials who have cooperated in an investigation related to their official duties should not be held financially liable.”
“When we took office, we conducted a thorough and comprehensive legal review and found that there was no legal basis to approve these contracts and make these payments,” said spokeswoman Hazel Crampton-Hays.
“Nevertheless, we have been working to find a fair solution and we expect to resolve this in the near future.”
The AG Office and the Audit Office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
https://nypost.com/2022/03/23/hochul-seeks-to-pay-5-million-in-legal-fees-for-ex-cuomo-staffers/ Hochul plans to pay $5 million in legal fees for ex-Cuomo associates