Former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) filed a lawsuit on Wednesday against the state’s attorney general alleging she improperly rejected his request for legal counsel in his sexual misconduct suit brought by a state trooper.
The lawsuit, which was filed on Wednesday in the Manhattan Supreme Court, alleges New York Attorney General Letitia James’s (D) denial of taxpayer funds to pay for Cuomo’s counsel was arbitrary, capricious and contrary to New York law.
State law provides that the governor is entitled to defense in any civil action alleged while he was acting “within the scope of his public employment or duties,” and Cuomo argued the suit is covered under the statute.
James’s office had led a monthslong inquiry into allegations against Cuomo, releasing a report last August stating the former governor had sexually harrassed at least 11 women.
Cuomo resigned a week later but has maintained his innocence, saying he left office to avoid becoming a “distraction.” The women detailed in James’s report include the unnamed state trooper, who was on Cuomo’s protective detail and filed the lawsuit in question in February.
“The report has been reviewed by five separate district attorneys and every single one has declined to move forward based on it — it was nothing more than a political document and holds no legal weight. Their political games continue,” said Rich Azzopardi, spokesman for Cuomo.
Cuomo’s complaint states he contacted James’s office on March 7 requesting she provide counsel or approve private counsel to defend Cuomo in the suit against the state trooper. James denied the request the following month but did not provide a sufficient basis for the decision, according to court documents.
“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,” James’s office said in a statement.
“Sexually harassing young women who work for you is not part of anyone’s job description,” the statement continued. “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.”
The suit asks the court to vacate the state attorney general’s denial, declare she has a conflict of interest and consequently enable Cuomo to use private counsel paid for by the state.
Mychael Schnell contributed to this report.