New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) is currently fending off multiple scandals, and has apparently hired so many different law firms to defend him that he’s having a hard time keeping track of it all.
Now, Cuomo appears to have been caught in a lie about how his legal fees are being paid. According to the New York Post, public disclosure documents indicate the governor used cash from his re-election campaign to pay some of these fees — despite explicitly stating in early June that taxpayer funds would cover them.
In fact, the disclosure form revealed that Cuomo’s campaign had made a payment to one particular law firm — Glavin PLLC, headed by former federal prosecutor Rita Glavin — on the exact same day that the governor said he wouldn’t use campaign cash or personal funds to cover his legal fees.
Disclosures and dishonesty
The New York Daily News reported that, according to campaign filings released this week by the State Board of Elections, Cuomo’s campaign had paid at least $284,000 to Rita Glavin’s law firm for “professional services,” which includes representing him against allegations of sexual misconduct from multiple staffers.
The first payment was made on May 3 in the amount of $111,774, followed by a second payment of $173,098 on June 2 — the very same day that Cuomo explicitly denied using campaign or personal funds to pay for his legal representation at a press conference.
According to the Washington Examiner, while speaking to reporters during a June 2 press conference at the Javits Center, the governor had said, “The way it works is the Executive Chamber has retained a counsel, and that is a state expense, [as] it has been in every investigation, so that’s where we are now.”
Whether Gov. Cuomo was deliberately lying or playing semantics that day — or perhaps a mix of both — remains to be seen.
Taxpayers on the hook
Still, it is worth noting that June 2 also marked the date when the Albany Times-Union had exposed a state contract revealing that New York taxpayers were indeed paying for at least some of the governor’s legal defense fees.
A website maintained by state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli showed that the state had entered into a contract for $2.5 million for legal services with the law firm of Morvillo Abramowitz.
That contract was reportedly “approved and filed” on April 27 and had been related to Cuomo’s defense against allegations that his administration had deliberately covered up the true death toll from COVID-19 in New York’s nursing homes.
The Times-Union noted that, given the criminal nature of the investigation into nursing home deaths and that potential charges would be pressed against individuals, and not the executive office, questions have been raised regarding the appropriateness of taxpayer funds being used for Cuomo’s personal defense in that instance.
Interestingly enough, the Times-Union also reported at that time that Gov. Cuomo’s office had rejected several Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests for that $2.5 million contract with Abramowitz, as well as for at least two other legal defense contracts that had already been approved, citing potential harm to “imminent contract awards.”