Report: Mayor misused security detail for family, campaign
NEW YORK (AP) — New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio misused city resources by taking his police security detail with him on trips around the U.S. during his ill-fated presidential run, at a cost of around $320,000, and by letting his adult son use the detail as a free taxi service, investigators concluded in a report released Thursday.
The city’s Department of Investigation, an independent agency that acts as a inspector general, also said a police van was improperly used to carry a futon when de Blasio’s daughter, Chiara, moved from a Brooklyn apartment back to Gracie Mansion, the mayor’s official residence, in August 2018. Members of the mayor’s security team drove his son, Dante, around town and to and from Yale University, in New Haven, Connecticut.
The Department of Investigation laid much of the blame for the misuse of the detail on the police department, saying it had no written procedures defining when and how the detail should be used.
Members of the security detail also at times transported the mayor’s staff members and guests including his brother, Steve Wilhelm, the report said.
De Blasio said at a virtual news briefing that the report contained “many inconsistencies and inaccuracies” and said decisions about providing security during his presidential campaign and about transportation for his family had been made by police officials based on safety concerns.
“Look, I’m honored to be the mayor of New York City but my first responsibility is as a father and as a husband,” he said. “And so I think of the safety of my family all the time. The ultimate decision when it comes to safety must be made by security experts.”
The Department of Investigation report noted that both de Blasio children, who are in their 20s, are entitled to full-time police protection but have declined it as adults.
Dante de Blasio’s frequent use of officers from the mayor’s security detail for transportation did not arise from any security concern “but was instead driven solely by a combination of Dante’s preferences and the availability of personnel who were otherwise assigned to the Mayor,” the investigators said.
Deputy Inspector John Miller, the Police Department’s head of intelligence and counterterrorism, said at the mayor’s briefing that the police would prefer to provide full-time protection to Chiara and Dante de Blasio, but failing that, are prepared to step in whenever their services are requested.
“Our watchword has been always to provide as much security as they will accept,” said Miller, who supervises the security team.
But Department of Investigation Commissioner Margaret Garnett said at her own virtual news conference that the ad hoc security arrangement for the younger de Blasios made no sense. She said the policy meant that, for example, Dante could ask to be driven a short distance to a drugstore to pick up a prescription but could go to a crowded night spot with no security because he might not want police officers joining him there.
“It’s not security, it’s essentially a concierge service, primarily for Dante,” Garnett said. “Either it’s not good security or it’s not good government, or both.”
The agency’s report said the lack of any written policies or procedures at the NYPD for the mayor’s security detail was the root problem.
Because no policies exist, “neither the NYPD nor, as far as DOI is aware, any other City entity provided the Mayor, his family, or his representatives with any guidance – written or otherwise – concerning the appropriate or inappropriate uses of the security detail,” the report said.
The report accused Inspector Howard Redmond, who oversees the security detail, of obstructing the probe by deleting text messages and having an NYPD-issued phone destroyed under the guise of receiving an upgrade rather than turning it over to investigators.
Garnett said her department has asked the Manhattan district attorney’s office to consider criminal charges against Redmond.
A spokesperson for the office said, “We are reviewing the referral.”
De Blasio said of Redmond, “He is someone who has served this city for 30 years. And that’s what I know.”
Miller said the police department will cooperate with any probe into Redmond’s conduct.
The Department of Investigation said that either the mayor or his political campaign should reimburse the New York Police Department for the $319,794 it spent having de Blasio’s security detail travel outside of New York City on 2019 presidential campaign trips.
The mayor has appealed an earlier decision by the Conflicts of Interest Board that he should pay his campaign expenses.
De Blasio’s office released a letter sent by the counsel for the mayor to the board arguing that the city should pay all the security costs associated with the mayor’s failed campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination.
“If the NYPD determines that security is necessary for an out of state trip that the mayor takes, regardless of the purpose and length of that trip, it is in the City’s interest that such security be provided (at the level the NYPD recommends) at City expense,” the mayor’s counsel, Kapil Longani, asserted in the letter dated July 22.
A spokesperson for the Conflicts of Interest Board said he could not comment.
De Blasio’s term as mayor ends in December. The Democrat has said he is still interested in public service and is weighing options that could include a run for governor.
Associated Press writer Michael R. Sisak contributed to this report.