De Blasio to Bill NYC Taxpayers for His Legal Expenses

(Bloomberg) -- New York Mayor Bill de Blasio says he’ll bill taxpayers for about $2 million to reimburse the lawyers who defended him during more than a year of criminal and administrative agency probes into his fundraising practices. 

“A large portion of the bills — around $2 million — relate directly to my public service and decision-making in government,” de Blasio said in a message posted on the Website “After giving this a great deal of thought, it has become increasingly clear that the most appropriate course of action is to let the city cover costs for legal work tied to government service.”

De Blasio, 56, a Democrat facing reelection this year, drew an immediate rebuke from his presumed Republican opponent, Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis. She called the mayor “ethically challenged” and his decision to pay the bills with city funds “appalling.”

“City residents do not pay taxes to defend his inappropriate actions such as fundraising schemes to influence upstate senate races or creating a non-profit clearly aimed at enhancing his progressive image on the national stage,” said Malliotakis, who represents parts of Staten Island and Brooklyn.

Ultimately, criminal grand juries and administrative reviews yielded no criminal or civil charges concerning the mayor’s conduct. The investigations focused on the now-defunct Campaign for One New York -- a non-profit to advance his policy agenda financed with millions of dollars from developers, unions and others who did business with the city. Other probes related to de Blasio’s efforts to raise and spend millions of dollars in a failed effort to elect a Democratic majority in the state Senate in 2014.

De Blasio had said he would use a private legal defense fund to pay the bills, raising the same pay-to-play questions that had led to probes by then-Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara and District Attorney Cy Vance, and administrative reviews by the state Board of Elections and the city Conflict of Interest Board. 

“All legal efforts on my behalf are not paid for by the taxpayer,” de Blasio said in February. On Friday, de Blasio said only $300,000 worth of the total legal bill, relating to political fundraising including the state Senate races, “will be paid for with private dollars donated to a legal defense fund.”

Last year, the mayor said that more than $11 million in legal bills incurred by his staff would be paid with city funds. The mayor on Friday said he decided to have the city treasury pay his bills, too, after he realized how difficult it would be to appropriately raise legal defense money. City Conflict of Interest laws have no guidelines for officials to create such funds, and the mayor urged the City Council to pass a law that would provide rules for them.