NY Assembly allows puny $250K legal contract for Cuomo impeach probe

Bizar Male

The state Assembly has so far allocated just $250,000 for its sprawling impeachment investigation of Gov. Andrew Cuomo — enough for barely three weeks of full-time work by its team of outside lawyers, according to a contract made public Friday.

Critics said the miserly move shows that lawmakers are short-changing the probe into the the multiple scandals threatening Cuomo’s political career.

“I believe the Assembly has more than enough reason to draft articles of impeachment and they are using this impeachment investigation to appease and buy time for the governor,” state Sen. Alessandra Biaggi (D-The Bronx) said.

The contract, which was signed on April 20 and 21, is good for one year and says partners and associates at the firm of Davis Polk & Wardwell will each be paid $600 an hour to assist the Assembly’s Judiciary Committee with its probe, which began in mid-March.

During recent meetings, Chairman Charles Lavine (D-LI) has said that four Davis Polk lawyers were assigned to the committee.

Paralegals also will be paid $250 an hour, according to the contract.

“For $250,000, you cannot expect they’re doing a whole lot,” said Cameron Macdonald, an adjunct fellow at the Empire Center for Public Policy, a conservative think tank.

“There’s documents to review, there’s witnesses to interview … it will just disappear.”

Sarah Goff of the good-government group Common Cause New York also said, “Given the breadth of the Assembly Judiciary Committee’s investigation into the Governor, the size of the contract seems to suggest a less than robust commitment of resources.”

State Sen. Alessandra Biaggi addresses on sexual harassment in the workplace at a public hearing in Albany, New York on Feb. 13, 2019.
Bronx state Sen. Alessandra Biaggi said she believes there’s “more than enough reason to draft articles of impeachment.”
AP Photo/Hans Pennink

During the committee’s first meeting regarding the probe, Lavine said it would likely take “months” to complete because Cuomo was enmeshed in so many scandals.

At the time, Lavine said the probe would address whether Cuomo sexually harassed or assaulted female subordinates, directed a cover-up of nursing home deaths from COVID-19 or was involved in suppressing investigations into bridge safety.

Since then, Lavine has expanded the investigation to also include allegations that Cuomo improperly arranged coronavirus tests for his relatives and that he had state workers help prepare his best-selling pandemic memoir.

As of last month, a hotline for tips had also generated more than 200 calls.

Cuomo has denied any wrongdoing.

Macdonald, who researches legal issues for the Empire Center, said Davis Polk’s task would dwarf the work done for the Assembly in 2019 by the law firm Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe.

That firm was hired to defend lawmakers’ decision to let themselves continue to earn outside income despite getting a pay raise.

Records received through the Freedom of Information Law show that Orrick, Herrington racked up $123,000 in legal bills over 45 days just to draft a legal brief, attend a court hearing and monitor the case, he said.

Macdonald also described the pay-raise dispute as “singular and straightforward” compared to the “factually intensive” impeachment probe, and predicted that $250,000 would “not be enough for the sexual harassment [portion], let alone nursing homes.”

Representatives for Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-The Bronx) and Davis Polk didn’t return requests for comment.

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