- Associated Press - Thursday, April 9, 2015

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) - The office of New York Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli has approved $1.8 million in reimbursements for former state Senate Leader Joseph Bruno’s legal defense fees, but rejected another $606,000 sought by the former lawmaker after he was acquitted on corruption charges.

In a letter Wednesday to Bruno’s attorney, DiNapoli’s office said it would not approve $606,000 in expenses it considered unreasonable or unjustified.

Bruno attorney Cornelius Murray said he plans to submit additional documentation to validate some of the disallowed expenses.

Bruno is seeking a total of $2.4 million to pay his legal bills under a state law authorizing the payment of “reasonable” attorneys’ fees for officials accused of criminal wrongdoing while acting within the scope of their duties.

The 86-year-old Rensselaer County Republican was acquitted last year on charges that he took bribes to direct state grants to a businessman.

Last year, the office of Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, a Democrat, approved Bruno’s $2.4 million reimbursement request, noting that it had “no choice” but to approve the request.

The subsequent review by DiNapoli, a Democrat, determined that more than a quarter of the expenses submitted by Bruno weren’t justified. They included $136,000 in “unreasonable” legal fees and $23,500 in fees charged by Bruno’s attorneys for speaking to reporters covering the case - including The Associated Press. Another $445,000 in expenses were disallowed because they didn’t have invoices, receipts or other documentation.

Bruno’s lawyer has until April 29 to submit documentation to justify the expenses. Murray said he is now asking some of Bruno’s previous attorneys for information about the expenses in the hopes that more of the expenses will be reimbursed.

“The comptroller’s office left the door open,” Murray said. “Sen. Bruno paid the lawyers and the lawyers billed him for expenses they incurred. We have to go back to the lawyers to get the documentation.”

Bruno led the Senate majority for 14 years before stepping down in 2008. In a 2009 trial, he was acquitted on five charges and convicted on two that were later overturned on appeal. Prosecutors refiled those charges, leading to his acquittal last year.

He has said the two trials and appeals cost him more than $4 million.

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