A 47-page report says Mayor De Blasio abused his security privileges. Here’s what you need to know

After a two-year investigation into the details of the city’s security, the Department of Investigations (DOI) this month released a scathing 47-page report that determined a pattern of inappropriate use of security by Mayor Bill de Blasio and his family which he believes amounts to misuse of public resources for private gain.

It is estimated to have cost taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars, but the mayor has vigorously attacked the findings, calling them “inaccurate” and naive in the face of the security threats he and his family face. daily. But questions about the report continued to haunt de Blasio, who survived a previous campaign finance scandal and is reportedly exploring a gubernatorial candidacy.

Read more: De Blasio abused public resources in failed presidential election, report says

Here are the main takeaways from the report and why they are important.

What motivated the investigation?

The investigation began in August 2019 following allegations of security breaches reported by news outlets that focused on two questions: how the New York City Police Department escorted her two children to vehicle after they were no longer under 24/7 protection, and de Blasio’s use of his security service during his presidential campaign. DOI investigators relied on interviews with the mayor and his wife, First Lady Chirlane McCray, members of his security service who report to two NYPD units, as well as cellphone tapes and text messages. They also contacted federal agencies to determine their best practices for managing the safety of government officials and preventing abuse.

What were the most damaging discoveries?

During a four-month presidential campaign that included 21 trips totaling 60 days, investigators concluded that the NYPD paid approximately $ 319,794.20 for the mayor’s security service to accompany them. However, this estimate, the report says, only includes travel costs such as flights, hotels, rental cars, fuel and meals. It does not include the salaries of security personnel or the overtime they have incurred.

To date, de Blasio has not reimbursed the city for these expenses. Instead, he filed an appeal against the decision of the New York City Conflict of Interest Commission that he should reimburse those costs.

The report delves into the use of safety details by de Blasio’s two children, Dante and Chiara. He looks back at the infamous 2019 incident in which the NYPD helped Chiara, 24 at the time, move from her Brooklyn apartment to Gracie Mansion. McCray told investigators she was helping her daughter at the time and planning to use her own retail vehicle. But she said all the belongings, including a futon, couldn’t fit. In one of the many eyebrow-raising details, the report states that McCray said an NYPD van “miraculously” arrived to help. Meanwhile, a member of the mayor’s security service said he was assigned by his superior to drive the van to Chiara’s apartment.

The mayor has always maintained that he knew nothing about the move, although cellphone recordings show a call made from him to his wife during the move.

Dante, meanwhile, used the mayor’s security information to travel to Yale University, where he attended college, and places around the city, according to the report. Investigators found that after graduation and as of December 2019 or January 2020, he was also driven by NYPD members to his job in Brooklyn. The practice ceased in the spring of 2020, around the time of the pandemic.

In total, the report cites 34 instances where Dante de Blasio got into NYPD vehicles without the mayor or the first lady being present.

Is all of this illegal?

The report does not accuse the mayor of breaking any laws, but it does point out that the city’s charter prohibits officials from using city resources for personal gain. It also cites the rules adopted by the Conflict of Interest Council, which does not allow any use of city time or resources for personal gain or for political activities.

As a result, the mayor could face fines from the Conflict of Interest Commission for ethics violations.

There is, however, a potential criminal charge that could emerge: NYPD Inspector Howard Redmond, who is in charge of the mayor’s security, has been referred to the Manhattan district attorney’s office for possible criminal prosecution. The report accuses Redman of hampering the investigation by failing to respond to several requests to hand over to investigators his cell phones issued by city hall and the NYPD. DOI not only discovered deleted messages that they were able to track on the phones of other security personnel, but also an attempt by Redman to destroy his NYPD-issued phone.

The report further added that during his interview, Redman “displayed a lack of frankness, repeatedly asserted that he could not recall the facts regarding matters under his direct supervision, and gave several answers that were not credible in light of objective evidence and affidavits. other witnesses. “

How did the mayor react?

“The whole report is fraught with inaccuracies,” de Blasio said on WNYC’s Brian Lehrer last week. “There is no full search. They have not spoken to officials.”

He defended his use of his security information for himself and his family, saying the policies were determined by the NYPD, not himself. He also underlined the increasingly dangerous nature of being a high-level elected official. “We know that the harsh reality of our politics has created a dynamic where there is much less security and, in fact, families are also caught up in reality, and threats can come from anywhere at any time.” , he told reporters.

John Miller, the NYPD Assistant Counterterrorism Commissioner who was not interviewed by the DOI, joined the mayor at the press conference and said the department recorded a total of 308 separate threats involving the mayor, 33 of whom referred to his family and 14 specifically. against his children. In 2020, a police union, the Sergeants Benevolent Association, revealed Chiara’s personal information on Twitter after she was among hundreds of protesters arrested during the George Floyd protests.

Regarding the use of his security information while campaigning for the presidential election, de Blasio argued that there were many precedents for elected officials using their security information without reimbursement. In his appeal letter to the Conflict of Interest Council, he quoted former Mayor Rudy Giuliani when he ran for the US Senate, as well as several governors who ran for president, including former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.

Who is the DOI commissioner and what did she say?

Margaret Garnett has served as Commissioner of DOI, a role considered to be the chief watchdog of the city government, since December 2019. Prior to that, she worked as the Assistant Attorney General for the New York State Attorney General and has spent 12 years as federal prosecutor for the South Quarter.

Garnett took over from Mark Peters, who had led several damning investigations into city agencies, including failed lead paint inspections by the New York City Housing Authority. De Blasio controversially fired Peters, who then accused the mayor of trying to suppress his inquiries.

During an interview on NY1, Garnett defended the integrity of his investigation into the mayor’s use of his security details and said the mayor had yet to specifically identify the alleged inaccuracies in the report. She spoke of a “model of conduct” in which public resources were available for the personal benefit of the mayor.

Explaining that corrupt behavior can snowball, she added, “You are resetting a baseline of what is an unacceptable barrier between staff and official, and it can just lead to even worse things.”

Garnett argued that the “fundamental problem” involving the mayor’s security details is the lack of written policies or procedures. “Because there is neither the NYPD nor, to the knowledge of the DOI, any other entity in the city has provided the mayor, his family or his representatives with advice – written or otherwise – regarding the appropriate or inappropriate uses of retail security, ”the report states.

The report is probably Garnett’s swan song. On Wednesday, it was announced that she would become the assistant prosecutor in the office of the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Damian Williams. Its last day is November 10.

Will there be political fallout?

The mayor continued to face questions this week about the report. But with less than three months remaining in power, there are a host of other pressing issues that have drawn attention: his decision to abandon the city’s gifted and talented program, the ongoing Rikers crisis, and the efforts vaccination program in the city and the imminent possibility of stricter mandates.

But de Blasio has made it clear that he intends to remain in public life, so the investigation’s findings are likely to resurface, especially if he is campaigning for governor.

“Once a negative comes out, it’s hard to get over,” said George Arzt, a political consultant who was a former press secretary to Mayor Ed Koch.

He said the report is particularly damaging because ethical lapses have been a “cumulative problem” for de Blasio. At the start of his eight-year tenure, he was involved in multiple investigations involving his donors and whether they had obtained any special favors. Federal and state prosecutors ultimately failed to find any criminal wrongdoing, but the scandal will likely be remembered as part of the mayor’s legacy.

Betsy Gotbaum, executive director of Citizens Union, a good government group, said New Yorkers should be concerned about the DOI investigation because the conduct of the abuses it details comes at their expense.

She said she found it surprising that the mayor, a former public attorney, was unaware that the use of his security details while campaigning for another office was wrong. “If you campaign, you have to pay it back,” she said.

Like several others, including Democratic mayoral candidate Eric Adams, she said she was not opposed to children being given the mayor’s safety. But she said she found the report’s findings that the mayor’s security was sometimes sent to pick up non-immediate family members, like the mayor’s brother. “It’s so over there,” she said.

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