NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — With Gov. Andrew Cuomo facing multiple investigations, some lawmakers and good government groups are raising questions about the teams of lawyers hired to defend him.
Specifically, should taxpayers have to foot the bill?READ MORE: Gov. Cuomo Stands To Make $5 Million From Controversial Book Deal, Tax Returns Show
The sound of cash registers ringing up mucho dinero may be music to the ears of the teams of lawyers hired by Cuomo to defend him on charges of sexual harassment and cooking the books on nursing home deaths.
But the fact that taxpayers are on the hook for the tab is sounding a very sour note for many.
“It’s a complete violation,” Assemblyman Ron Kim said. “He is being accused of a number of bad behaviors and abusing his power. It should be up to him to hire his own attorneys to defend himself.”
At least three firms, including high-powered defense attorney Elkan Abramowitz, have been brought on board to represent Cuomo and his aides in probes by the state Assembly, Attorney General Letitia James and the U.S. Attorney.
Details about exactly what Cuomo’s team of legal eagles are being paid were hard to come by.
Abramowitz referred CBS2’s Marcia Kramer to the governor’s office. Spokesman Rich Azzopardi said only, “We are in the process of finalizing these contracts and related documents for review and approval by the Comptroller’s office.”READ MORE: Gov. Cuomo Under Fire Over Remarks About Sexual Harassment: ‘Harassment Is Not Making Someone Feel Uncomfortable’
Abramowitz’s contract the last time Cuomo hired him to save his skin netted his firm $3.1 million. Abramowitz billed $937.50 an hour in connection with charges the governor prematurely shut down a corruption probe.
“It’s simply unacceptable and potentially illegal to take taxpayer-funded lawyers and refuse to provide the public with a full accounting of the cost,” Susuan Lerner, of Common Cause, said in a statement.
“Should taxpayers pay for Governor Cuomo’s legal problems?” Kramer asked New Yorkers.
“Of course not … The guy did some dirty deeds or he wants to defend himself, let him use his own money,” said Frank Gurner, of the Upper West Side.
“When you’re accused of a private crime, you have to use your own money to pay for it,” said Betsey Peters Epstein, of the Upper West Side.
“We pay for everyone else’s legal problems. Why should we pay for Governor Cuomo’s?” said East Flatbush resident Felicia Brown.
Common Cause says the governor should set up a legal defense fund.MORE NEWS: Report: New York AG Investigating Whether Cuomo Aide Pressured Leaders To Support Governor In Exchange For COVID Vaccine Access
CBS2 has filed a Freedom of Information request for the contract.