ALBANY — Taxpayers will pay up to $950,000 to represent Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s office in the federal investigation of a former top aide to the governor, a lobbyist long associated with Cuomo, and the state’s Buffalo Billion economic development project, according to the contract released Thursday by the state comptroller’s office.
Cuomo hired the law firm of Morvillo, Abramowitz, Grand, Lason and Anello of Manhattan after U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara issued subpoenas and later a felony complaint against longtime Cuomo aide Joseph Percoco, lobbyist Todd Howe, former state Polytechnic Institute President Alain Kaloyeros and others. The federal prosecutor is alleging there was bid-rigging on the Buffalo Billion project in Western New York.
Cuomo is not accused of wrongdoing.
The state comptroller’s office approved the contract Thursday, a spokeswoman said. The top rate under the contract is $937.50 an hour, paid to a partner of the firm at what the contract calls a discounted rate.
The contract runs from April 29, 2016 to Dec. 31, 2016 and is amended from a previous maximum payment of $750,000.
“As we said, we are assisting the U.S. Attorney’s office in any way we can in their investigation and their prosecution,” said Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi.
In the contract, Cuomo’s office defended the choice of the law firm by saying it is “uniquely and exceptionally qualified” and is capable of handling the case “in an expedited and skillful manner.”
The contract dated Oct. 20 states the Executive Chamber is hiring the firm because “the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York is currently investigating the Buffalo Billion Project and the Nano Project and has issued subpoenas and requests for information to the chamber as part of the investigation.” (Nano Project refers work done by the Polytechnic Institute, which is part of the State University of New York.)
The firm is needed to provide “expert outside counsel to assist in responding to the subpoenas and information request as well as any other legal advice or guidance to support its cooperation with the” U.S. Attorney’s Office, according to the contract signed by Cuomo general counsel, Alfonso David.