New Yorkers Fight de Blasio on Tab for Corruption Defense

MANHATTAN (CN) – Griping about the nearly $14 million legal bill racked up by Mayor Bill de Blasio, a trio of New Yorkers are accusing the embattled Democrat of conspiracy.

Filed on Aug. 6 in Manhattan Supreme Court, the 24-page complaint is led by talk radio host Curtis Sliwa, political activist Frank Morano and Sal Albanese, a contender in the upcoming election for de Blasio’s seat.

Calling the mayor “ethically challenged,” the trio contends that de Blasio is “trying to stick to New York City’s taxpayers” with the more-than $13.6 million legal tab for a pay-to-play inquiry.

One of de Blasio’s donors, Brooklyn developer Jona Rechnitz, already pleaded guilty to making campaign donations in exchange for favorable treatment.

Two others, developer Jeremy Reichberg and restaurateur Harendra Singh, face bribery charges and are accused of using de Blasio connections to get tax breaks and sweetheart land deals.  

Sliwa, Morano and Albanese’s complaint comes just over a month after de Blasio indicated that he is using city money to fund his defense in several inquiries.

“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 the costs for legal work,” de Blasio said on June 30, according to the complaint, which notes that the statement occurred on the “getaway” Friday ahead of the Fourth of July weekend.

The “statements directly contradict the promise de Blasio made in February,” according to the complaint.

City Hall had promised in February, according to the complaint, that “no taxpayer dollars will be used to fund the mayor’s compliance with these reviews.”

The lawsuit — which refers to de Blasio as “Hizzoner” several times and references the mayor taking a motorcade to his Park Slope gym while wearing a Boston Red Sox hat — asks for 15 declaratory judgments.

Sliwa was arrested last week in front of Gracie Mansion attempting to serve de Blasio with the lawsuit. News reports quoted Sliwa after his release as claiming that de Blasio was afraid of Albanese, who is challenging the sitting mayor in the Democratic primary.

The challengers insist that illegal or political activity is “outside the scope of public employment and thus should not be covered by the City of New York.”

Also named as defendants to the complaint are current and former de Blasio aides, including former campaign manager and current Intergovernmental Affairs Director Emma Wolfe, former de Blasio fundraiser Ros Offinger, city Comptroller Scott Stringer, and political consultant Josh Gold.

The lawsuit cites recent reports that mayor has helped Reichberg and Rechnitz with various housing and water department issues.

Emails printed in the New York Post have shown that “these two major campaign donors were given the run of City Hall by de Blasio,” the complaint states.

“The NY Post emails show Rechnitz contacted de Blasio directly on matters large and small—inviting him to Rechnitz’s son’s bris, seeking to exchange thoughts on a controversial production at the Metropolitan Opera, and asking to pop by City Hall to have a Holocaust survivor present Hizzoner de Blasio with a book,” the complaint continues.

City spokesman Eric Phillips said in a statement that the lawsuit was frivolous, and that “the public will only pay for legal fees associated with government work.”

Sliwa, perhaps best known for founding the Guardian Angels group that patrolled New York City subways for criminals, hosts a talk radio show. Last September he led a group that took over the leadership of the New York City Reform Party.

Albanese is that group’s candidate in the 2017 New York City mayoral race.

Morano often appears as political commentator on a morning talk show with former comedian Joe Piscopo, and is active in the New York City Reform Party.

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