The Department of Investigation (DOI) announced a completed review of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s alleged use of NYPD protection during his failed 2020 presidential bid, finding that he used up to $319,000 of city resources which were not reimbursed by his campaign.
De Blasio was found to have ordered his NYPD detail to transport campaign staff without him being present, something the agency deemed inappropriate, along with the use of city resources to move his daughter, Chiara de Blasio, to a new residence.
The mayor’s office, however, disputed the findings, calling the report conducted by the agency under its own administration “unprofessional.”
“Some of these individuals were previous mayoral staffers who had taken leaves of absence from their city positions to work on the mayor’s presidential campaign. Detail members told DOI that the inspector in charge of the mayor’s security detail had instructed them that campaign staffers should not be given rides on campaign trips. But these interviewees acknowledged that they did not know and no one told them,” DOI Commissioner Margaret Garnett said in a Thursday press conference on the new investigation report.
Moreover, the DOI found that Inspector Howard Redmond, in charge of First Lady Chirlane McCray’s protection, had obstructed the investigation by refusing to hand over his City Hall-issued phone. The agency said he had sought to destroy the phone at one point in the investigation and text messages had been purged. Encrypted text message apps were also allegedly used by the security detail.
But the de Blasio administration told DOI to stay in their lane rather than telling the NYPD Executive Protection Unit how to do their jobs.
“Intelligence and security experts should decide how to keep the mayor and his family safe, not civilian investigators,” a rebuttal of the report from City Hall reads. “This unprofessional report purports to do the NYPD’s job for them, but with none of the relevant expertise – and without even interviewing the official who heads intelligence for the City. As a result, we are left with an inaccurate report, based on illegitimate assumptions and a naïve view of the complex security challenges facing elected officials today.”
Despite Garnett’s assertion that the mayor himself had directed NYPD to offer security detail to his children, City Hall says that NYPD officials in fact offered the service. City Hall additionally argued that the mayor and his family receive threats on a regular basis – with an increase occurring during his presidential run – and that the residences of his family members are public knowledge.
City Hall says it “provided extensive fact checking on the inaccuracies in DOI’s draft report and engaged in good faith with DOI throughout the investigation.”
The DOI did not disclose how many cops were in the mayor’s detail either during or after his presidential run.
Not only does City Hall contend that NYPD briefed the mayor on what was and wasn’t appropriate, and that the children of the mayor were entitled to protection through NYPD. But Garnett countered by saying “it’s no way to run a railroad.”
“The problem is the security is not being provided in any meaningful way, and in practice, what is happening is that, you know, it’s not security it’s essentially a concierge service, probably for Dante,” Garnett explained. “Based on the view of experts we spoke to, and our examination of the facts in this matter is just either it’s not good security or it’s not the government or for both.
The mayor’s office issued a letter appealing to the Conflicts of Interest Board (COIB) regarding the repayment of the $319,000.
However, according to Garnett, it is not under the purview of the DOI to adjudicate on this matter, that would be the duty of the COIB. The only criminal aspect of the investigation, she believes, is Inspector Redmond’s alleged obstruction. Criminal referral has not been made to the Manhattan District Attorney’s office regarding the investigation apart from Redmond’s role, according to Garnett.
“When you spend money, you have to document the reasons… You have to have to pay for it and you have to be able to answer people’s questions and those questions are legitimate questions when public monies are being spent,” Garnett said in defense of agency report. “So I don’t think that we should accept in this area a regime in which there are no policies, there’s not one piece of paper at the NYPD that relates to these matters, and I just don’t think that’s acceptable as a matter of good government.”
The guidance on matters of appropriate use of security detail by the COIB do not predate 2009 making the precedence of other mayoral administration’s similar misuse does not vindicate the de Blasio administration’s alleged actions.