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Are AGs aware of all settlements?

Are attorneys general involved in every confidential settlement reached by the lawyers in his/her office? Apparently not.

The question arises as another wrinkle emerged in the controversy over the secret settlement of sexual harassment allegations against Assemb. Vito Lopez and the use of confidentiality clauses in cases using taxpayers’ money.

According to documents, the office of Andrew M. Cuomo, while he served as attorney general, approved a confidential settlement in a lawsuit accusing the state of racial discrimination. A Cuomo spokesman, while pointing out that the case is different from the Lopez matter, said that no “senior” level staff was engaged in the 2010 case, which involved an employee at the Western New York Psychiatric Center.

Asked if that meant Cuomo wasn’t always involved settlements reached by the AG’s office, spokesman Josh Vlasto said yes.

The question is relevant to the Lopez matter because current Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has said he was unaware of the case until it became public, even though a staff attorney helped provide legal guidance on the settlement. Schneiderman has criticized the Lopez settlement  and how it was handled by Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) — which is now the subject of two investigations.

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