Mayor Bill de Blasio created the “appearance of coercion and improper access” to his administration when he asked the heads of firms with business before the city for donations to his political nonprofit, a city ethics panel said in a damning letter that has just come to light.
His refusal came in 2019 after the Department of Investigation found he violated ethics laws by hitting up fat cat donors for his nonprofit created to tout his accomplishments.
The newly released COIB letter shows that the mayor should have known he was breaking the rules.
The Post obtained the letter through a Freedom of Information Law request filed nearly two years ago. Administration officials finally granted the request Wednesday — just weeks before the term-limited mayor leaves office.
In 2015, the mayor asked three people with pending matters before his executive branch or other municipal agencies to support his nonprofit without providing the required disclaimer that the donations “would result in no official favor or disfavor,” according to the COIB letter.
Jeffrey Levine, chair of Douglaston Development, gave $25,000. David Von Spreckelsen, President of Toll brothers real estate firm, also donated $25,000 and lobbyist James Capalino and Capalino and Associates coughed up $10,000 — then arranged for another $90,000 from his clients.
At the start of his administration, de Blasio had sought advice through a lawyer and received guidance from COIB saying he couldn’t direct “a targeted solicitation” of anyone with ongoing matters before the city.
“By soliciting these three donations from firms with business pending before executive agencies, and providing no disclaimers, you not only disregarded the Board’s repeated written advice, but created the very appearance of of coercion and improper access to you and you staff that the Board’s advice sought to help you avoid,” the letter states.
“A public servant who engages in solicitations such as these, either directly or through a surrogate, acts in conflict with that public servant’s official duties, in violation fo the City Charter,” the letter adds.
De Blasio narrowly avoided federal charges related to his shady fundraising practices in 2017. COIB decided not to punish the mayor because he disbanded the organization in 2016 and the City Council later passed a law regulating improper fundraising activities.
The nonprofit was initially founded to boost de Blasio’s universal pre-kindergarten program but later expanded to boost his overall political ambitions.
City Hall reps did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Published on: Article source