ALBANY, N.Y. — Former governor Andrew Cuomo thinks New York taxpayers should be on the hook for his legal bills.
A year to the day after announcing his resignation amid sexual harassment allegations, the disgraced Democrat filed a lawsuit against Attorney General Letitia James for failing to provide him with legal representation after one of his accusers took him to court.
Cuomo’s attorney argues in the suit, filed Wednesday in Manhattan Supreme Court, that James’ office wrongfully denied the ex-gov’s request for counsel after a state trooper who accused him of misconduct sued him.
Lawyer Rita Glavin alleges that the denial was “arbitrary, capricious, contrary to the plain text of the statute, biased, personally and politically conflicted” as well as a dereliction of duty on James’ part.
The unnamed trooper, who alleges Cuomo acted inappropriately and made suggestive comments after she was appointed to his protective detail, filed a civil suit in Brooklyn federal court against the former governor and two of his top aides in February.
In March, Cuomo requested the state provide him with representation or pay for private counsel in connection with the suit, according to court documents.
James’ office determined, however, that the state was not responsible for covering any of the ex-politician's related legal costs.
Cuomo stepped down as governor of the Empire State last summer following a damning report from James’ office detailing sexual harassment allegations made by the trooper and nearly a dozen other women, mostly younger staffers.
Since then, the Queens native has maintained his innocence, attempted to discredit his accusers and repeatedly cast the report from James’ office as politically motivated.
Court documents filed on Wednesday argue that Cuomo is entitled to representation paid by the state since the alleged acts took place “while he was acting within the scope of his public employment and duties.”
In her suit and James’ report, the trooper describes creepy encounters with Cuomo in which she alleges he once ran his hand across her stomach and frequently made flirtatious comments toward her after fast-tracking her transfer to his security detail.
A representative for the attorney general’s office argued that 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.”
“Sexually harassing young women who work for you is not part of anyone’s job description,’ James spokeswoman Delaney Kemper said. “Taxpayers should not have to pony up for legal bills that could reach millions of dollars so Mr. Cuomo’s lawyer can attack survivors of his abuse.”
Glavin, meanwhile, went on to accuse James of denying the request for counsel based on “her political ambitions” and her “obvious personal dislike of Governor Cuomo,” according to the court filing.
She also rehashes several complaints made over the past year, dressing down the attorney general for her “long-standing refusal to provide Governor Cuomo with all evidence underlying the Report for careful scrutiny” and “her refusal to correct, amend or supplement the Report despite being made aware of its material omissions and errors.”
In a statement, Glavin railed against James and again cast the report that prompted Cuomo’s resignation as a miscarriage of justice.
“Governor Cuomo did not sexually harass anyone. The AG wants to use her political hit job ‘report’ to continue to fuel her own ambitions,” she said. “The petition Governor Cuomo filed yesterday is about enforcing the law and ensuring fairness and transparency — something the AG has repeatedly denied him.”
Following a months-long probe conducted by independent investigators, James’ report concluded that Cuomo sexually harassed multiple women and violated state and federal laws.
Prosecutors from across the state declined to bring criminal charges against the 64-year-old, citing insufficient evidence even though Cuomo’s accusers were found to be credible.
The trooper’s lawsuit seeks damages for “severe mental anguish and emotional distress” and a declaratory judgment that Cuomo and the State Police violated federal, state and city laws barring harassment.
The suit also lists Cuomo’s top aide Melissa DeRosa and the State Police as defendants for allegedly engaging in a cover-up even though the trooper admitted limited contact with the governor’s second-in-command.
Senior Cuomo adviser Richard Azzopardi was added to the suit after issuing a statement accusing the trooper’s law firm, Wigdor Law LLP, of “using the press to extort settlements.”
Despite denying Cuomo’s request, James’ office determined in March that DeRosa, who served as secretary to governor, was “entitled to be represented by private counsel.”