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New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio lost an effort to keep secret the revelations from a city ethics panel that he allegedly solicited donations from the heads of large development firms in return for allowing them to build in the city.
In a September 2018 letter that has just come to light, the city’s Conflicts of Interest Board (COIB) informed the mayor that he had created an “appearance of coercion and improper access” for his administration when he hit up several wealthy developers for contributions for his now-defunct political nonprofit, Campaign for One New York.
His letter reportedly failed to provide a required disclaimer assuring potential donors that whether they donated or not, he would not help them or hinder them, according to The New York Times.
In 2019, de Blasio refused to release the private letter after the city’s Department of Investigation determined he had broken ethics laws by getting large donations from three specific donors: Lobbyist James Capalino of Capalino and Associates donated $10,000; David Von Spreckelsen, president of Toll Brothers real estate firm handed over $25,000; and Jeffrey Levine, chairman of Douglaston Development gave $25,000.
“By soliciting these three donations from firms with business pending or about to be pending before executive agencies, and providing no disclaimers, you not only disregarded the Board’s repeated written advice, but created the very appearance of coercion and improper access to you and your staff that the Board’s advice sought to help you avoid,” the COIB letter states.
The letter continued to say that “a public servant who engages in solicitations such as these … acts in conflict with that public servant’s official duties, in violation of the City Charter.”
That letter, along with another from July 2014, was released this week following a ruling by the State Court of Appeals which denied an effort by de Blasio’s office to keep the documents under wraps. Despite the warning however, de Blasio apparently faced no disciplinary action.
“The city had, for more than two years, fought The New York Times’s efforts to obtain the board’s correspondence with the mayor, denying an initial Freedom of Information request and then fighting a lawsuit filed by The Times,” the newspaper reported.
This isn’t the first time de Blasio’s ethics in relation to fundraising for his organization have been challenged. In 2017, the mayor was facing potential federal charges until the board agreed not to sanction him if he disbanded the nonprofit. Although Campaign for One New York was initially created to promote de Blasio’s vision for universal pre-K, it gradually grew into an organization existing only to help further his own goals.
According to City Hall press secretary Danielle Filson, the mayor was acting “in good faith” when he made calls to advance his Pre-K vision for the city, adding in a statement that the board “closed these cases and determined no enforcement action was necessary.”
The New York Times reports that the mayor owes $300,000 in legal debts stemming from his defense.
Although De Blasio leaves office next month, the quite unpopular mayor has announced he is planning to run for New York governor in 2022. The news seems to have failed to excite either liberals or conservatives.
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