Last Friday, mayoral candidate Maya Wiley held a news conference to blast Gov. Andrew Cuomo for what she deemed were ethical lapses — including reports he’d improperly pressured staff to help on his book “American Crisis.”
She promised that as mayor, she’d run an honest, transparent administration. She did not mention — or eagerly discuss when reporters inquired — another ethics issue: her proximity to the conflict-of-interest scandals that tarnished Mayor Bill de Blasio’s tenure at City Hall.
As the mayor’s first general counsel, or in-house lawyer, Wiley drafted a memo advising him on how he could legally solicit donations for a nonprofit he’d formed called Campaign for One New York (CONY) without violating conflict-of-interest rules. De Blasio nevertheless wound up the target of federal, state and local ethics investigations.
Federal prosecutors declined to bring criminal charges, but determined that de Blasio had intervened on behalf of donors with business before the city.
The state Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) cited several donors for providing illegal gifts to the mayor with their CONY contributions. And the city Department of Investigation (DOI) concluded that de Blasio had violated city ethics rules by soliciting individuals with pending matters at City Hall.
This week, in response to a long list of questions from THE CITY, Wiley’s campaign released a terse statement acknowledging that while she had provided the mayor with ethical boundaries for his CONY fundraising, her advice “was not always followed.”
“In her role as counsel to the mayor, Maya provided legal
guidance regarding the mayor’s involvement in fundraising for
non-profit organizations,” the campaign stated. “Maya has made clear she
was not involved with Campaign for One New York nor its implementation
of the guidance which she provided. It is clear from DOI’s conclusion
the guidance was not always followed.”
On Wednesday, she declined to directly answer most of THE CITY’s questions during a brief interview as she campaigned in The Bronx. Asked how she felt about the mayor not following her guidance, she replied, “I stand by my advice and when I am mayor will always take the advice of my lawyers.”
Wiley also gave de Blasio a way to conceal from the public City Hall’s internal communications with outside political consultants who were paid big bucks from the money he’d raised. She dubbed these consultants “agents of the city” — a justification ultimately shot down by the courts.
Wiley’s advice on CONY and her use of the “agents of the city” argument raise questions about her good government promises, said Sal Albanese, a former City Council member from Brooklyn who first ran for mayor against de Blasio in the 2013 Democratic primary and has since been a consistent critic of his fundraising tactics.
“It was almost like an exercise in, ‘Let’s see how we can make this happen for the mayor,’” said Albanese, who is now seeking a Council seat on Staten Island. “Wiley should have shut that whole thing down immediately,” he added. “The whole thing is a conflict of interest.”