MANHATTAN (CN) – New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio faces a $5 million federal complaint from a former city official who says blowing the whistle on corruption got him fired.
A former deputy commissioner at the Department of Citywide Administrative Services, Ricardo Morales tapped attorneys at Kraus & Zuchlewski to bring the Feb. 21 complaint in Manhattan.
He says the city fired him on Feb. 24, 2017 — just hours after federal prosecutors completed a review of de Blasio in which Morales had been cooperating for months.
Morales says he his objections known to various conduct by de Blasio, including his “interceding on behalf of politically connected donors in order to aid their attempts to gain favorable terms in dealing with the city; attempting to arrange for city officials to give knowingly false testimony under oath before the N.Y.C. Council; and harassing and retaliating against Morales for cooperating with investigations into the wrongdoing.”
When the city gave him the boot last year, Morales says he was give only a minute or two to collect his belongs and then physically escorted out the building.
“After his 20 years of dedicated civil service, Morales was treated like a common criminal,” the complaint notes.
Morales argues that his humiliating ejection was meant to send a message to all civil servants about the consequences of reporting any wrongdoing by the mayor’s office.
De Blasio had not even been in office a year, the complaint says, when Morales got on his bad side by denying special treatment to one of the mayor’s big donors, restaurateur Harendra Singh.
In the years since, Singh has his pleaded guilty to making political donations to de Blasio in exchange for tax breaks and a favorable sweetheart land deal for his now-closed Queens restaurant, the Water’s Edge.
Morales notes that Singh was in substantial default of his leasehold obligations to New York City, owing millions of dollars for back rent and repairs, at the time of his donations and fundraisers for de Blasio.
After Morales refused to play along with the “special treatment that Singh thought he had paid for with his bribes to the Mayor,” the complaint says Singh and and a lobbyist were outraged, exclaiming angrily that Morales must not have gotten the “memo” before storming out.
WYNC’s Brian Lehrer grilled the mayor last month on Singh’s plea, asking “how can someone be guilty of giving you a bribe and you not be guilty of taking it?”
De Blasio responded: “It’s abundantly clear and I’ll say it for everyone: this man did a lot of bad things in a lot of places.
“I’m someone who never did, never would be involved in such an effort,” he said. “I was thoroughly looked at, and there’s a reason there were no charges brought because there was nothing there.”
De Blasio contended that Singh struck a plea deal “to save his own skin.”
“He agreed to certain charges for his own self-preservation, but I’ve been 100 percent consistent — what he says happened did not happen. Period,” de Blasio said.
Acting U.S. Attorney Joon Kim released a statement in March 2017 on his office’s investigations into de Blasio’s fundraising and alleged City Hall favors. “After careful deliberation, given the totality of the circumstances here and absent additional evidence, we do not intend to bring federal criminal charges against the mayor or those acting on his behalf relating to the fundraising efforts in question,” Kim said. “Although it is rare that we issue a public statement about the status of an investigation, we believe it appropriate in this case at this time, in order not to unduly influence the upcoming campaign and mayoral election.”