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De Blasio's legal bills to be paid for by NYC taxpayers

Mayor said last year he didn’t intend to charge taxpayers. He changed his mind after a ruling about donation limits on a legal defense fund.

Mayor Bill de Blasio's legal bills will now

Mayor Bill de Blasio's legal bills will now be paid for by city taxpayers. Photo Credit: Cory Sipkin

A day after news broke about a longtime campaign donor secretly pleading guilty to bribing a New York City official — whose dealings are consistent with those of Mayor Bill de Blasio — the mayor’s law department filed formal notice that taxpayers will pay de Blasio’s related legal bills.

But, nearly a year after the U.S. attorney said there was insufficient evidence to charge anyone on de Blasio’s team with a crime, the legal fees are still being negotiated, the mayor’s spokesman Eric Phillips said Thursday.

“When there’s a final number,” Phillips wrote in an email, “we’ll release it.”

Formal notice by de Blasio’s office that he intends to bill taxpayers for work done by the law firm Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel LLP appeared in Thursday’s City Record, which puts the public on notice of municipal procurement.

Last year, de Blasio said he did not intend to charge taxpayers for legal bills related to local and federal investigations of his fundraising tactics, which were criticized by state and local prosecutors.

The mayor changed his mind after the New York City Conflicts of Interest Board ruled that if he set up a legal-defense fund, it would need to obey donation caps governed by some of the strictest campaign-finance laws in the country.

On Wednesday, court documents revealed that Long Island restaurateur Harendra Singh pleaded guilty in 2016 to federal charges in connection with the unnamed city official, as well as former Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano and former Oyster Bay Town Supervisor John Venditto.

According to a court transcript, Singh, 59, of Syosset, gave “donations to the elected official in exchange for efforts by that official and other city officials to obtain a lease renewal from the city agency for my restaurant on terms that were favorable to me.”

In March, then-Acting U.S. Attorney Joon Kim said that there was insufficient evidence to surmount a “high burden of proof” that de Blasio or anyone else on his team committed a crime.

Still, Kim said, his office identified “several circumstances” where the mayor “made or directed inquiries to relevant city agencies” on behalf of donors seeking “official favors . . . after which the mayor made or directed inquiries to relevant city agencies on behalf of those donors.”

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