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Mayor de Blasio accepts blame for OEM firing debacle

Joe Esposito's dismissal was not related to November storm response, mayor says.

Mayor Bill de Blasio, seen Nov. 16, said

Mayor Bill de Blasio, seen Nov. 16, said Tuesday he should have met personally with Office of Emergency Management Commissioner Joe Esposito about his firing. Photo Credit: Craig Ruttle

Mayor Bill de Blasio took responsibility Tuesday for a roller coaster of a weekend for Joe Esposito regarding his future at the Office of Emergency Management.

The mayor said he personally should have met and spoken with Esposito to finalize plans to replace him as OEM commissioner, rather than delegating the task to Deputy Mayor Laura Anglin.

When Anglin gave Esposito the order during a meeting Friday, the mayor said the conversation got "emotional" and there was an ensuing miscommunication, which led to public speculation that his removal was a result of the city’s handling of the Nov. 15 snowstorm.

"Everything in the end is my responsibility," de Blasio told reporters. "Obviously something went wrong; I have to take responsibility for that."

De Blasio reiterated that the storm had nothing to do with his decision to change OEM leadership, and that the move had been in the works weeks earlier. The mayor declined to provide further details about his reasons for replacing Esposito, only saying that the agency needed "a more strategic response."

"We felt that more was needed going forward in an ever more complex world," he said.

The administration scrambled to clear the air over Esposito's status following a Monday morning Wall Street Journal report on Friday's meeting with Anglin. The commissioner, who has been in the position since 2014, reportedly refused to step down until he spoke with the mayor personally and reported for work Monday morning.

Several City Council members signed a letter Monday, urging the mayor to reconsider his move and not make Esposito a scapegoat for the storm.

The administration put out a statement later Monday, saying Esposito would vacate his position after a replacement was found, but said they were "exploring additional opportunities" for him.

De Blasio said he will conduct a nationwide search for a successor and that OEM operations will continue normally until that person is selected.

"Sometimes you can work with someone . . . and feel there were some really good skills, really good attributes," de Blasio said. "But . . . for where we want to go going forward I was [certain] we needed to go in a different direction."


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