ALBANY — The state paid $754,000 last month for outside lawyers in a continuing federal investigation of the Buffalo Billion economic development project and related work, as well as $24,000 to another law firm for independent investigations of sexual harassment claims in the Assembly, according to Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s executive chamber spent $273,000 for work by the Morvillo Abramowitz Grand Iason law firm of Manhattan “related to the U.S. Attorney’s investigation of the Buffalo Billion Project and SUNY Nano Program,” according to the comptroller’s report.
So far, the law firm has been paid $915,019 on the contract with Cuomo’s office that could pay out up to $950,000, according to comptroller’s records.
In addition, the Kelley, Drye & Warren law firm of Manhattan was paid $481,000 in March. The firm is working as special counsel for the State University of New York related to the federal investigation of SUNY Polytechnic Institute, where the SUNY Nano Program is located.
So far, SUNY has paid Kelley Drye a total of $606,208 under a contract that could pay out up to $1.5 million.
The U.S. attorney’s office is investigating Cuomo’s Buffalo Billion project and other economic development projects in Onondaga County outside Syracuse. A former top aide to Cuomo, Joseph Percoco, and seven others were indicted in November on corruption charges in two alleged bribery schemes to rig bids and wield influence on upstate development projects. They have pleaded not guilty. Another former associate of Cuomo, lobbyist Todd Howe, agreed to a plea deal with federal prosecutors in the case.
Cuomo has said his office did nothing wrong in the case, has pledged his full cooperation with federal investigators and began his own probe within the executive chamber. Cuomo is proposing several procurement measures that would involve adding more investigators and monitors in state contracting.
The Assembly spent $24,000 last month for continued work by the law firm of Roemer Wallens Gold & Mineaux as part of an independent investigation of sexual harassment claims, DiNapoli reported. The law firm was hired to conduct a probe after then-Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) was criticized for his handling of a sexual harassment claim against former Assemb. Vito Lopez, a powerful Brooklyn Democrat, who has since resigned.
That brings total payments to the law firm to $175,133 under a contract that could pay up to $230,000.
The Assembly has since installed new measures to prevent and deal with sexual harassment.
The spending was part of DiNapoli’s regular public reports of state spending.