Wednesday, December 6, 2023

De Blasio Fined for Misusing NYPD During Failed Presidential Bid

'... public officials -- including the most senior -- will be held accountable when they violate the rules... '

(By Christian Wade, The Center Square) A city board has fined former New York City Democrat Mayor Bill de Blasio $500,000 for misusing the NYPD as security during his failed 2020 presidential campaign.

The New York Conflict of Interests Board issued a ruling on Thursday fining the former mayor $155,000. He must also repay the city $319,794 for out-of-state travel costs for NYPD officers who accompanied him during campaign trips in 2019. The ruling constitutes “the largest fine in the history of the board,” it said.

In its ruling, Board Chairman Milton L. Williams Jr., said while the city is obligated to pay for an NYPD security detail for the city’s mayor, “there is no city purpose in paying for the extra expenses incurred by that NYPD security detail to travel at a distance from the city to accompany the mayor or his family on trips for his campaign.”

The board said de Blasio, a Democrat, had NYPD details accompany him on 31 out-of-state presidential campaign trips, some of which included his family members.

But de Blasio has filed a lawsuit to block the fines, arguing the board’s ruling breaks with decades of NYPD policy and precedent.

His attorney, Andrew G. Celli, Jr., called the board’s decision a “reckless and arbitrary ruling” that “threatens the safety and security of our democratically-elected public servants.”

“Every mayor faces threats, and all mayors are entitled to protection — regardless of party or politics,” he said in a statement. “That’s why the NYPD is charged with determining what level of protection is necessary for such officials, when, and how.”

Celli invoked the Jan. 6 Capitol riots and other attacks on elected officials, arguing the board’s ruling is “dangerous, beyond the scope of their powers, and illegal.”

“This case isn’t about Bill de Blasio or any other Mayor or high official in particular,” he added. “It’s about the principle of protecting our leaders from harm – for the good of our city.”

De Blasio announced his presidential bid in May 2019, joining a crowded Democratic field seeking to challenge incumbent President Donald Trump. But the then NYC mayor dropped out of the race after only a few months, throwing his support behind Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’s presidential campaign.

In its ruling, the board argues that recent court rulings have rejected that argument despite de Blasio’s claims that federal campaign finance laws preempt the city from seeking reimbursement for the cost of security personnel. The ruling included an opinion from an administrative law judge that the board has the authority to issue the fines.

Department of Investigations Commissioner Jocelyn E. Strauber said in the statement that the board’s conclusions regarding de Blasio’s misuse of his security detail “reaffirms DOI’s investigative findings, and shows that public officials — including the most senior — will be held accountable when they violate the rules.”

De Blasio has faced similar allegations of misusing NYPD details. Shortly before leaving office in 2021, a report by the DOI determined that he had used taxpayer-funded police details as a “concierge service” to provide transportation for his family members.

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