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Mayor de Blasio laments anti-nepotism laws prevent wife Chirlane McCray from compensation

“In many, many cases, it is a man who holds public office and a woman who is his spouse who has a lot of professional background in a position to contribute.”

Chirlane McCray and Mayor Bill de Blasio, right,

Chirlane McCray and Mayor Bill de Blasio, right, attend a news conference at City Hall in Manhattan, Thursday, Nov. 29, 2017. Photo Credit: Charles Eckert

It’s unfair that New York City’s anti-nepotism laws bar a mayor from paying his wife with taxpayer funds, Bill de Blasio said Wednesday.

While “I respect and understand why the law is in place,” de Blasio said, he lamented that his wife, Chirlane McCray, cannot be compensated for her work on important city initiatives to combat mental illness, domestic violence, discrimination against LGBTQ people and more.

“I find it strange that she’s not allowed any compensation — and let’s face it: This often affects women,” de Blasio, a Democrat, said at an unrelated news conference at NYPD headquarters. He added: “In many, many cases, it is a man who holds public office and a woman who is his spouse who has a lot of professional background in a position to contribute.”

The rules the mayor’s referring to appear to be Chapter 68 of the charter, NYC’s governing document, and prohibit a person “associated ... with a public servant,” such as “a spouse, domestic partner, child, parent or sibling ... to obtain any financial gain, contract, license, privilege or other private or personal advantage, direct or indirect.”

According to the New York City Conflicts of Interest Board’s newsletter, The Ethical Times: “Nepotism often invokes the idea of someone using their government office to obtain a position for a relative or friend in a way that bypasses a transparent, fair, merit-based hiring system. Nepotism runs counter to fairness, and threatens to turn the workings of government into a family-run business, where raises, promotions, and assignments are determined more by birthright than by quality of labor.”

McCray, who has a taxpayer-funded staff, helps de Blasio decide on appointments and other policy matters and has sat in on dozens of government meetings. She has overseen ThriveNYC, a 54-point, $850 million program promoting mental health.

De Blasio said earlier this week that criticism of the municipal role of McCray, a poet, writer and former speechwriter, is “the most idiotic thing I ever heard in my life” and “smacks of sexism.”

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