De Blasio Is Faulted for Using Security Detail for Personal Benefit

, De Blasio Is Faulted for Using Security Detail for Personal Benefit, The Habari News New York
, De Blasio Is Faulted for Using Security Detail for Personal Benefit, The Habari News New York

Mayor Bill de Blasio misused public resources for political and personal purposes, including deploying his security detail for personal trips like moving his daughter to Gracie Mansion, and has not reimbursed the city for security costs from his presidential campaign, according to a city investigation released on Thursday.

The city spent nearly $320,000 for members of Mr. de Blasio’s security detail to travel on his presidential campaign trips in 2019 — funds that have not been paid back personally or through his campaign, according to the 47-page report by the city’s Department of Investigation.

The report said that the use of a police van and personnel to help move Mr. de Blasio’s daughter was “a misuse of N.Y.P.D. resources for a personal benefit,” and that Howard Redmond, the police inspector in charge of the family’s security detail, had “actively obstructed and sought to thwart this investigation.”

At a news conference, Margaret Garnett, the commissioner of the investigation department, said that investigators found that Mr. Redmond had tried to destroy his cellphone after he was told to surrender it and that he had deleted communications. She said she was referring the matter to the Manhattan district attorney’s office.

The report did not say that any laws were broken. But the findings still come at an inopportune time for Mr. de Blasio, a Democrat with three months left in office who is actively considering a run for governor. He has faced several investigations into his fund-raising practices over his eight years as mayor, and prosecutors in 2017 raised concerns about them but ultimately decided not to bring criminal charges.

Mr. de Blasio’s office criticized the report on Thursday, arguing that “civilian investigators” should not decide how to keep the mayor and his family safe.

“This unprofessional report purports to do the N.Y.P.D.’s job for them, but with none of the relevant expertise — and without even interviewing the official who heads intelligence for the City,” his office said in a statement. “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.”

The report also examined Mr. de Blasio’s use of his security detail during his failed presidential campaign in 2019. The city paid for flights, hotels, meals and rental cars for members of his detail as Mr. de Blasio visited states including Iowa and South Carolina at a cost of almost $320,000. That figure does not include salary or overtime for the officers.

Mr. de Blasio failed to make an impact in the presidential race and dropped out after a few months.

The report also cited several occasions where the mayor’s detail was used to pick up his brother from the airport, and to drive him to pick up a Zipcar in Palmyra, N.J. The detail also drove Mr. de Blasio’s brother “to an Alamo rental car location without the mayor present.”

Asked if Mr. de Blasio was using his security detail as “glorified Uber drivers,” Ms. Garnett said there was a culture that treated the officers like they were City Hall staffers and a “concierge service.”

The report made recommendations to prevent misuse of the mayor’s security detail in the future, including having the Conflicts of Interest Board publicly release advice issued to elected officials about the use of city resources in connection with political activities.

, De Blasio Is Faulted for Using Security Detail for Personal Benefit, The Habari News New York

City officials acknowledged in 2019 that the New York Police Department executive protection unit assigned to guard Mr. de Blasio and his family had helped his daughter, Chiara, move her belongings from an apartment in Brooklyn to Gracie Mansion. They used a city police van to move some of her personal items, including a rolled-up futon mattress.

Mr. de Blasio has also received criticism over using his security detail to drive his son, Dante, between New York City and Yale University in Connecticut. The report said that one detective recalled driving Dante de Blasio to or from Yale “approximately seven or eight times without the mayor or first lady present.”

The mayor’s son continued to use of the security detail when he moved back to New York City. The report found that starting around January 2020, he began receiving rides from the police every weekday morning from Gracie Mansion to his job in Brooklyn. The mayor “denied knowledge of this arrangement,” the report said.

The mayor’s office defended the trips at the time, saying that Mr. de Blasio and his family had followed ethical rules, and that his children were guaranteed police protection like the children of previous mayors.

On Thursday, Mr. de Blasio’s office said that his immediate family was “always entitled to detail therefore all uses are proper” and argued that Mr. de Blasio and his family regularly received threats, pointing to a post on Twitter last year by Ed Mullins, the former police union leader who is under investigation, regarding Chiara de Blasio’s personal information.

As for the security costs of his presidential campaign, the mayor’s office said that the city had appealed a decision by the Conflicts of Interest Board that he should pay for them and that “no final decision has been made.”

The report faulted the Police Department for its failure to follow “any formal processes or procedures” or create formal records regarding the eligibility of the mayor’s two children for security detail protection. The report noted that Dante de Blasio “has not had an assigned detail since approximately August 2015,” yet often was given protection.

The report also found that for about a year, the mayor’s detail has been making security checks at homes owned by Mr. de Blasio in Brooklyn — a practice that investigators focused on because the mayor does not currently live in them and because one home is used as an investment property with paying tenants. A sergeant told investigators that the practice began during protests last year after the homes of elected officials were vandalized.

The city’s Department of Investigation previously found in a confidential and heavily redacted report that Mr. de Blasio had solicited contributions from people who had business pending with the city, an apparent violation of the City Charter’s ethics law.

The department investigates city government, including the executive branch. Mr. de Blasio nominated its commissioner, Ms. Garnett, a former federal prosecutor, in 2018, and the City Council confirmed her. Mr. de Blasio had fired her predecessor, Mark G. Peters, after he produced a series of investigative reports that were embarrassing to Mr. de Blasio.

Katie Glueck contributed reporting.