Andrew Cuomo wants New York to pay his legal bills in sexual harassment lawsuit

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Former Gov. Andrew Cuomo sued New York Attorney General Letitia James Wednesday, alleging that her office wrongfully declined to provide him legal representation in a lawsuit brought by the New York state trooper who accused him of sexual harassment last year.

Cuomo resigned last summer amid a host of sexual harassment allegations from multiple women.

He now alleges that under New York’s Public Officers Law, James’ office is compelled to represent him in the trooper’s civil suit, or pay for private counsel, because the suit arose out of an alleged act while the employee, meaning Cuomo “was acting within the scope of his public employment or duties,” according to court filings. 

“Respondent James’s denial of Governor Cuomo’s request for counsel was arbitrary, capricious, contrary to the plain text of the statute, biased, personally and politically conflicted and was in dereliction of Respondent James’s duties as the chief legal officer of the state,” the lawsuit reads.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks during a news conference at New York's Yankee Stadium, Monday, July 26, 2021.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks during a news conference at New York's Yankee Stadium, Monday, July 26, 2021.

The state law in question doesn’t apply in this instance, as alleged sexual harassment didn’t fall within Cuomo’s official duties, the Attorney General’s Office said Thursday in a statement.

“Andrew Cuomo is trying to force New Yorkers to pay his legal bills because he believes sexual harassment was within his 'scope of employment' as governor,” the statement read. “Sexually harassing young women who work for you is not part of anyone’s job description.”

The unnamed state trooper, who joined Cuomo’s protective detail in 2018, alleged the former governor initiated physical contact − touching her stomach and back − and made remarks that she found to be “inappropriate and offensive,” according to a 2021 investigative report by the Attorney General’s Office that corroborated harassment allegations against Cuomo from 11 women.

At the time, Cuomo and his attorney, Rita Glavin, denied the report’s most serious claims and suggested the women may have misinterpreted some of his remarks as flirtations. He claimed the attorney general's report left out pertinent information and was politically motivated.

Months later, in February of this year, the trooper sued Cuomo, his longtime aides Melissa DeRosa and Rich Azzopardi, and the New York State Police in Manhattan federal court, alleging discrimination and retaliation.

It was for this legal action that Cuomo was seeking representation from James’ Office, or for the state to pay for a private attorney to represent him. But James declined to do so, saying that “the State is not authorized to provide for your legal representation or to pay for private counsel to represent you in the Lawsuit,” according to court filings.

The lawsuit alleges that James didn’t provide any reasoning behind her denial, and that it is “rife with conflict,” given her report on the governor’s alleged sexual harassment published months before, her “political ambitions” and her “obvious personal dislike of Cuomo,” according to court filings.

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Last fall, after Gov. Kathy Hochul had taken over from Cuomo, James ran a short-lived campaign for governor. She dropped out of the gubernatorial race less than two months after joining it, saying she would instead run for reelection as Attorney General.

When reached for comment Thursday, Azzopardi, Cuomo's spokesperson, drew attention to the fact that James' 2021 report was reviewed by five district attorneys across the state, and none decided to move forward with charges against Cuomo.

"It was nothing more than a political document and holds no legal weight," Azzopardi said in a statement. "Their political games continue.”

This article originally appeared on New York State Team: Andrew Cuomo wants New York to pay his legal bills in sexual harassment lawsuit