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Should Taxpayers Have To Pay For Teams Of Lawyers Hired To Defend Gov. Andrew Cuomo?

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With Gov. Andrew Cuomo facing multiple investigations, some lawmakers and good government groups are raising questions about the teams of lawyers hired to defend him. Specifically, should taxpayers have to foot the bill? CBS2 political reporter Marcia Kramer has the story.

Video Transcript

KRISTINE JOHNSON: With Governor Cuomo facing multiple investigations, some lawmakers and good government groups are raising questions about the teams of lawyers hired to defend him.

MAURICE DUBOIS: Specifically, should taxpayers have to foot the bill? Here's CBS 2 political reporter Marcia Kramer.

[CLINKING]

MARCIA KRAMER: The sound of cash registers ringing up mucho dinero may be music to the ears of their teams of lawyers hired by Governor Cuomo to defend him on charges of sexual harassment and cooking the books on nursing home deaths, but the fact that taxpayers are on the hook for the tab is sounding a very sour note for many.

RON KIM: It's a complete violation. He is been accused of a number of bad behaviors and abusing his power. It should be up to him to hire his own attorneys to defend himself.

MARCIA KRAMER: At least three firms, including high-powered Defense Attorney Elkan Abramowitz have been brought on board to represent Cuomo and his aides in probes about the state assembly Attorney General Leticia James and the U S attorney. Details about exactly what Cuomo's team of legal eagles are being paid were hard to come by.

Abramowitz referred me to the governor's office. Spokesman Rich Azzopardi saying only quote, "We are in the process of finalizing these contracts and related documents for review and approval by the comptroller's office." Abramowitz's contract the last time Cuomo hired him to save his skin, that it is from $3.1 million. Abramowitz billed $937.50 an hour in connection with charges the governor prematurely shut down a corruption probe.

"It's simply unacceptable and potentially illegal to take taxpayer-funded lawyers and refuse to provide the public with a full accounting of the cost," fumed Susan Lerner of Common Cause. Should taxpayers pay for Governor Cuomo's legal problems?

FRANK GURNER: Of course, not.

MARCIA KRAMER: Why not?

RON KIM: The guy did some dirty deeds, or he wants to defend himself. Let him use his own money.

BETSY PETERS-EPSTEIN: When you're accused of a private crime, you have to use your own money to pay for it.

FELICIA BROWN: We're paying for everybody else's legal problems. Why should we pay for Governor Cuomo's?

MARCIA KRAMER: Common Cause says the governor should set up a legal defense fund. I'm Marcia Kramer, CBS 2 News.

MAURICE DUBOIS: And Marcia adds that we have filed a freedom of Information request for that contract.