Mayor Bill de Blasio violated conflict of interest rules after being warned repeatedly not to solicit donations from individuals actively seeking tax breaks, deed transfers and other favors from his administration, according to a Department of Investigation report obtained by THE CITY.
The finding followed a two-and-a-half year DOI probe that ended in October but was never made public. THE CITY secured the 15-page “closing memo” — which the DOI heavily censored — via the Freedom of Information Law.
During the probe, DOI investigators questioned de Blasio about warnings by both the city Conflict of Interest Board (COIB) and his own counsel. The mayor claimed he wasn’t aware of such warnings – and said he couldn’t recall any details of conversations he had with several developers who recounted his personal requests for checks.
The report reveals DOI substantiated the allegation that de Blasio sought checks for the now-defunct Campaign for One New York fund from individuals “who had or whose organization had a matter pending or about to be pending before any executive branch of the city.”
The nonprofit formed as de Blasio arrived at City Hall in 2014 and hired consultants to press for support for his pet programs, such as universal Pre-K and affordable housing.
The closing memo was heavily censored by DOI, which cited protecting the privacy of witnesses and not wanting to reveal unsubstantiated allegations. The entire section marked “Conclusion and Recommendations” was blacked out.
The revelation of the DOI conflict-of-interest finding comes as de Blasio toys with a run for the White House. The mayor told WNYC’s Brian Lehrer last week he has “not ruled it out,” and his advisors have made clear he intends to make up his mind soon.
The mayor’s office, which has had the DOI report since Friday morning, did not respond to detailed questions submitted by THE CITY Wednesday morning.
Instead, a spokesperson released a brief statement: “These questions are asked and answered. Fundraising for the now-defunct Campaign for One New York was thoroughly reviewed by multiple parties and it was determined there was no wrongdoing. It’s been said a million times: the Mayor acted lawfully and ethically.”
In its report, DOI questioned the competence of de Blasio’s system for vetting possible donors for conflicts, stating “how the system was overseen remained unclear, as did whether the vetting research was conducted thoroughly and completely.”
The report noted that “there does not appear to have been any particular individual who exercised supervision over the vetting process.” And it revealed aides couldn’t agree on who was supposed to be doing the vetting to avoid conflicts.
De Blasio, for example, told DOI his then-general counsel, Maya Wiley, and another aide “owned” the vetting process. But Wiley told DOI investigators she had “no significant involvement” in that process after issuing an April 2014 memo spelling out specific areas of conflict that would constitute a violation of city ethics rules.
Another unnamed aide told DOI that a colleague was responsible for vetting potential donors – but that colleague then “denied any significant role in the vetting process.” That aide “did not know who was responsible for overseeing the vetting process.”
The DOI inquiry began April 13, 2016, shortly after de Blasio shut down Campaign for One New York.
Investigators interviewed dozens of witnesses, including the mayor, multiple donors, attorneys and lobbyists who helped raise funds for Campaign for One New York, and public relations and political consultants hired by the mayor’s group: SKDK Knickerbocker, AKPD Message & Media, Berlin Rosen and Hilltop Public Solutions.
The investigation wasn’t formally closed until Oct. 22, 2018. Four weeks later, de Blasio fired DOI Commissioner Mark Peters
Then there's this:
Despite the agency’s censorship efforts, the report obtained by THE CITY provides the most extensive portrayal yet of de Blasio’s fundraising tactics as he sought out five- and six-figure checks for the Campaign for One New York.
The mayor set aside weekly “call times” in which he “walked around the block as he called potential donors on his cell phone.” By the summer of 2015, he was making six to 10 such calls each week. Aides would instruct him on which donors he could request money from. With some he’d simply seek “support,” and an aide would follow up soon after with a specific money request.
That visual I highlighted reminded me of the video where that homeless woman caught the Blaz doing his yoga exercises at the Park Slope Y where he daily wastes 4 hours of civic service time commuting with a police escort to and then to the City Hall.
In a post I wrote on Impunity City, I thought the most interesting thing about that confrontation was not only that Ms. Adegusun brought up the fact that he broke his promise to house homeless people but that she caught him while he was holding a Blackberry.
While she was politely trying to get through to him, he told her he was working out and it wasn't the time and place to discuss this issue. Even though he had enough time to text as she was speaking to him.
As we all know now, he got up and speedwalked away.
No wonder he wears sneakers while doing yoga.