Cuomo legal defense in nursing home scandal could cost NY taxpayers up to $2.5M
The legal defense of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who is defending his nursing home policy in court, could cost taxpayers up to $2.5 million.
The embattled Democrats said during a press conference on Wednesday that he would not be using campaign finances or personal funding for his legal defense because the case qualifies as a “state expense.”
With federal authorities reportedly looking into Cuomo’s handling of nursing homes and related death data during the coronavirus pandemic, the governor’s administration could spend as much as $2.5 million dollars, according to information about a contract with the law firm Morvillo Abramowitz that appeared on a website maintained by state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli’s office. A copy of the contract was obtained by the Times Union, which reported on its details.
Media reports about the existence of a federal investigation were published in February after Melissa DeRosa, a top Cuomo aide, acknowledged the governor’s office hid the state’s nursing home coronavirus death toll out of fear of political retribution from then-President Donald Trump.
In February, the Associated Press reported that just over 9,000 recovering COVID-19 patients were sent to hundreds of New York nursing homes following Cuomo’s controversial March directive mandating that senior living facilities accept sick patients — a figure 40% higher than what the state’s health department publicly disclosed.
Cuomo signed the executive order on March 25, 2020, shielding nursing homes from liability when admitting COVID-19 patients. A report conducted by the Empire Center for Public Policy, a government watchdog group, found Cuomo’s directive linked to over 1,000 additional resident deaths.
“Statewide, the findings imply that COVID-positive new admissions between late March and early May, which numbered 6,327, were associated with several hundred and possibly more than 1,000 additional resident deaths,” the report read.
The governor reversed the policy on May 10 of last year. More than 15,500 nursing home residents with COVID-19 had died as of this spring.
Cuomo faces other scandals threatening his governorship.
On Friday, Cuomo’s office denied three Freedom of Information Law requests submitted by the Times Union, an Albany publication seeking records about the governor’s recent book deal, which is set to rake in $5 million for the governor.
The potential use of state resources in the promotion of American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from COVID-19 Pandemic has also attracted scrutiny from elected officials. In April, state Attorney General Letitia James received a referral to conduct a criminal investigation into Cuomo’s use of state resources to promote the book after a March 31 ethics complaint from a liberal watchdog group sought an inquiry into whether he violated a law prohibiting “the use of campaign funds for personal use.” DiNapoli authorized James to examine “any indictable offense or offenses,” including “the drafting, editing, sale and promotion of the governor’s book and any related financial or business transactions.”
The governor has been accused of directing state health officials to give special COVID-19 testing access to members of his inner circle. Richard Azzopardi, a senior adviser to the governor, has denied those claims as “insincere efforts to rewrite the past” in an email to the Washington Examiner.
Cuomo has also been accused of sexual harassment by 10 women despite denying he ever engaged in inappropriate touching. The allegations have resulted in two investigations: James is investigating the claims at the state level, and New York state Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie is directing an “impeachment investigation” to look into the matter in the Legislature.
James’s investigation into claims of sexual harassment expanded last month to look into claims that a top adviser tied counties’ COVID-19 vaccine access to support for the governor, which Beth Garvey, Cuomo’s counsel, said “malign[ed] a decadeslong public servant.”
Despite mounting pressure from within his party to resign, Cuomo, who is eligible to seek a fourth term in office in 2022, has vowed not to step down, saying the allegations of impropriety against him are false.
Original Author: Carly Roman