According to the city’s independent inspector general, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio hasn’t paid for the security expense that occurred during his presidential campaign and misused his security detail for his guests or his family’s benefit.
Margaret Garnett, Commissioner of the city’s Department of Investigation, a de Blasio appointee, issued a report (pdf) Thursday detailing the mayor or his family member’s misuse of public sources the department found in an investigation started from August 2019.
“No reasonable person disputes that the mayor of New York City should have security protection and that providing such protection, consistent with the city’s ethics rules, is in the interest of the city,” the report states. “However, because of the nature of protective work (to include both the inevitability of idle time and the intimacy of the relationship between detail and protectee over time), the provision of a standing security detail is potentially vulnerable to corruption and misuse of public resources.”
The watchdog found that the New York City Police Department(NYPD) paid approximately $319,794.20 for the mayor’s security detail to travel outside of the city on his campaign trips. But the mayor hasn’t reimbursed the expense either by himself or his campaign.
On May 16, 2019, Mayor de Blasio announced his bid for the 2020 presidential election. His campaign ended on Sept. 20, 2019.
According to guidance issued by the Conflicts of Interest Board of the city, any use of city time or resources for political activities is a violation of the guidance, except that certain elected officials may use city-owned vehicles for political travel in or near New York City, the report pointed out.
The report also detailed instances in which the mayor or his family member used security details for their personal benefits.
For example, NYPD’s Intelligence Bureau provided a sprinter van and physical assistance in moving furniture for the mayor’s daughter Chiara de Blasio when she moved from her apartment to Gracie Mansion, the mayor’s official residence.
The report also stated that de Blasio’s security personnel drove his son, Dante de Blasio, to or from Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, without the mayor or first lady present. The mayor had directly requested several times that Dante de Blasio be driven to locations throughout New York City, such as train or bus stations.
From December 2019 or January 2020, NYPD personnel had provided daily rides for Dante from Gracie Mansion to his workplace in Brooklyn until the pandemic hit in the spring of 2020.
The investigation identified about eight instances when de Blasio directly requested that his guests be transported, without his accompaniment, by members of his security staff.
According to the report, a limited review of the security detail’s communications identified approximately 36 instances of them transporting mayoral staffers without the mayor or first lady present. Approximately 12 of the 36 instances involved the staffer running errands for the mayor, such as getting him coffee or food.
The report also concluded that Howard Redmond, the NYPD inspector in charge of the first family’s security detail, “actively obstructed” the investigation by refusing to turn over a City Hall-issued phone and trying to destroy his NYPD-issued phone.
Redmond was referred to the Manhattan District Attorney’s office for possible prosecution.
De Blasio Defends Himself
The mayor defended himself during a press conference Thursday.
“I’m honored to be the mayor of the city, but my first responsibility was as a father and a husband. And so, I think of the safety of my family all the time,” de Blasio said. “The ultimate decisions on how to align security, how to protect those chosen by the people to lead need to be made by the NYPD.”
“They did not turn to the security experts, even though I made abundantly clear who I turn to for guidance,” de Blasio added. “To me, that omission is just plain unprofessional, and unfair, and inaccurate—does a disservice to the people of this city because you can’t as another agency talk about what’s right or wrong with public safety without actually consulting the public safety experts. It doesn’t make any sense to me. And I don’t think it’s right.”
“I have acted in good faith, always. I followed whatever guidance was given me. I’ve also constantly thought about the impact this is all having on my family and thought about their safety, and deferred, always, to the NYPD in terms of what’s the right way to address that.”
As to the almost $320,000 expenses he owed to the city, de Blasio said he had filed an appeal to the Conflict of Interest Board. “I certainly respect them and have faith that they will carefully review these facts and then come up with a final determination.”
John Miller, the Deputy Commissioner for Intelligence and Counterterrorism of the NYPD, also supported the mayor during the press conference.
Miller said that the NYPD had located 308 separate threats against the mayor over the last eight years, 33 of those have specifically referenced his family within the threat.
“The NYPD’s Intelligence Bureau position was, before this report for a number of years and remains that the children of the mayor are designated protectees, and we will provide them whatever protection we can when we can, if they accept it,” Miller claimed.
In an interview with PIX11 Friday morning, Garnett disputed de Blasio and Miller’s claim.
“There’s no question that the NYPD has threats against the de Blasio family and that those threats, according to the Intelligence Bureau, might merit protection,” Garnett said. “But the De Blasio’s children declined to. They had a security detail of their own; when they became adults they declined it.”
“So what they have in practice now is not determined by security needs, is determined solely by their preference,” Garnett said. “It’s not the appropriate way to do it. There’s not one piece of paper at the police department that documents what the threats are—the analysis, any determination of a security that is matched to what the situation is.”
Garnett also said she did contact NYPD during the investigation, contrary to the mayor’s claim.
Garnett was nominated by de Blasio in November 2018 and confirmed by City Council the same month. Before that, she served as a federal prosecutor for 12 years. The mayor praised her for decades of work protecting the public’s interest at the time.