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Top aide signed payment in confidential settlement

Here’s a post-script to the confidential settlement Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, while attorney general, approved in 2010.

A Cuomo spokesman has said no senior-level staff were involved in approving the settlement, which included a $49,000 payment to an employee of the Western New York Psychiatric Center who had alleged racial discrimination on the job.

But documents obtained through a Freedom of Information Law request show that the payment was authorized by Leslie Leach, Cuomo’s then-deputy attorney general in charge of state counsel, the post responsible for handling all litigation involving New York state. Leach is now Cuomo’s secretary in charge of political appointments.

Cuomo spokesman Josh Vlasto contended Leach’s signature on the “certificate of final payment” document ending the lawsuit was just a formality and not a sign Leach was involved in the negotiation.

“It’s just a sign-off,” Vlasto said. “It’s just approving a payment request.”

Cuomo has been critical of a secret, $135,000 settlement in a case accusing Assemb. Vito Lopez (D-Brooklyn) of sexual harassment. Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) approved the payment, but since has said he mishandled the case. Two probes are under way.

Vlasto said the Lopez case and the racial discrimination case, while both involving confidentiality, are “completely different … on many levels.”


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