New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has not paid back nearly $320,000 in public money used to fund the security detail that traveled with him during his aborted presidential campaign, a new report said Thursday.
The city investigators looking into the use of de Blasio’s security detail also concluded that the officer in charge of the mayor’s security unit “actively obstructed and sought to thwart” their probe.
The 47-page report from the New York City Department of Investigations came more than two years after the investigators launched a probe into allegations that de Blasio’s security detail had been misused for personal or political benefit. The probe looked at the use of security resources by de Blasio’s children and staff members, as well as whether the city had been stuck with the bill for de Blasio’s use of the security detail during his presidential bid.
The report arrived as de Blasio, who will step down as mayor when his final term ends this year, is reportedly planning a run for governor.
“There was a culture that treated the detail as if they were staffers” in the mayor’s office, Department of Investigations Commissioner Margaret Garnett told reporters later Thursday morning.
The detail, known as the executive protection unit or EPU, comprises officers from the New York Police Department’s intelligence bureau.
The report concluded that the EPU was misused when its members helped the mayor’s daughter, Chiara de Blasio, lift a futon into and out of an NYPD sprinter van during her move to Gracie Mansion from her apartment.
The probe was “unable to determine whether NYPD resources assisted in the move at Mayor de Blasio’s direct instruction,” but it said that the use of officers’ help in moving furniture was nevertheless “a misuse of NYPD resources for a personal benefit, whether it was requested or merely accepted.”
On numerous instances, the detail also drove de Blasio’s son, Dante de Blasio, to and from Yale University in Connecticut, and it was “common practice” for security members to drive him around New York City without the mayor or first lady present, according to the report.
Both of de Blasio’s kids declined to be assigned a security detail as adults, and there are no records showing Dante de Blasio should be a security detail protectee, the report said. “In practice, Dante’s use of NYPD resources was determined by his personal preferences and the availability of personnel, rather than any risk assessment,” the report concluded.
The investigation also concluded that the NYPD paid about $319,794 for the security detail to travel with de Blasio outside of New York City during his presidential run in 2019, which began in May that year and folded about four months later.
“To date, the City has not been reimbursed for these expenditures,” the report said.
To determine that figure, investigators had to cross-reference records from the campaign and NYPD records from the same time period “sort of piece by piece,” Garnett said.
In a fiery response, City Hhall accused the watchdogs of being ill-equipped to evaluate the use of de Blasio’s security detail.
“Intelligence and security experts should decide how to keep the mayor and his family safe, not civilian investigators. This unprofessional report purports to do the NYPD’s job for them, but with none of the relevant expertise – and without even interviewing the official who heads intelligence for the City,” the statement said.
“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,” city hall said.
The mayor’s counsel sent a letter to the city’s Conflicts of Interest Board regarding the question of who should reimburse the campaign related expenses.
In interviews with the investigators, de Blasio and first lady Chirlaine McCray “repeatedly stated that they had not received any guidance concerning the appropriate or inappropriate uses of their security details at any point during the Mayor’s administration,” the report said.
Rather, they both said they used “common sense” on when to use the security detail, and the mayor said he brought any questions about EPU to the police “because ‘they had to determine how their people would operate,'” the report said.
When the investigators asked the NYPD for guidance they provided to the mayor about the use of security resources, the NYPD said it had no documents or general written policies to hand over, according to the report.
De Blasio in the interview did not comment on the campaign expenditures or his “reimbursement obligations,” but said that “there appear to be many different inputs, to some extent in conflict, I don’t think anyone was able to resolve it squarely, and I mean I can’t say who resolved it because I don’t think anyone did,” the report shows.
“This investigation is a testament to DOI’s commitment and perseverance to get at the facts no matter the obstacles, as well as the problems that arise when there are no structured, written policies for functions as important as the operations of the Mayor’s security detail,” Garnett said in a statement.
“Protecting the Mayor and his family is a serious and significant job that should be guided by best practices, formalized procedures, and an understanding that security details are not personal assistants in a dignitary’s daily life but provide essential protection,” she said.
“Moreover, this investigation substantiated that New York City expended more than $300,000 on travel costs alone for the Mayor’s security detail during his presidential run. Under existing COIB guidance, these expenses must be repaid by the Mayor, either personally or through his campaign.”