In response, de Blasio filed a lawsuit. In a statement, his attorney said the council’s ruling is illegal and could expose elected officials to all kinds of violence in an era where partisanship has reached a fever pitch.
« With today’s decision, the COIB broke with decades of NYPD policy and precedent, ignored the professional expertise of the world’s largest law enforcement agency, and violated the Constitution to boot, » said Andrew Celli, Jr., an attorney for Emery Celli Brinckerhoff Abady Ward & Maazel. “In the wake of the January 6 uprising, the shootings of members of Congress [Gabby] Gifford E [Steve] Scaled, and almost daily threats directed at local leaders across the country, the action of the COIB – which seeks to shift to elected officials the security costs that the city has adequately borne for decades – is dangerous, beyond the scope of the their powers and illegal.
In May 2019, de Blasio broached the topic of a presidential run with the council, asking if the city could shoulder the cost of the mayor’s security details while he was out of town on the chopping block. In response, the council said that while taxpayers could foot the bill for wage and overtime costs, billing the city for travel expenses would be a misuse of city resources.
De Blasio subsequently made 31 out-of-state campaign trips during the fall, racking up $319,794 in the same kind of safety costs the board had warned against. Lui dropped out of the race in September 2019 after he was unable to get more than 1% in the polls and struggled to raise money for the long-term bid.
The council’s ruling adds to other financial and regulatory woes facing the former mayor. After leaving office, de Blasio still due white shoe law firm Kramer Levin $300,000 for representing him in an unrelated inquiry into fundraising practices while he was mayor. And in May, the Federal Election Commission fined de Blasio’s presidential campaign $53,000 for accepting improper contributions.
In response to Thursday’s ruling, the Investigations Department said the COIB’s findings mirrored it your own report on safety detail released in 2021.
« The Conflicts of Interest Board’s Findings Regarding Former Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Misuse of His Security Details Reaffirms DOI’s Investigative Findings and Shows Public Officials, Including Seniors, Will Be Held Accountable when they break the rules, » DOI Commissioner Jocelyn Strauber said in a statement on Thursday.
But John Miller, a former high-ranking NYPD member who helped oversee security for the mayor, said the COIB’s ruling ran counter to the police department’s thought process at the time.
The mayor’s security detail has protected him during all travels, whether personal or business, Miller said. And the fact that de Blasio was leaving town to run for president—as opposed to visiting family or another out-of-state dignitary—didn’t seem to change the underlying calculus: The mayor often worked on official city hall business when he was out of town even for the countryside. More importantly, New York City mayors are under constant threat because they are some of the most visible political figures in the country.
An NYPD threat log against de Blasio provided to the COIB listed more than 100 different cases in 2020 alone. According to Miller, people repeatedly threatened to kill or violently assault the mayor or his family members, sometimes using racist language and explicit details. (De Blasio’s wife, Chirlane McCray, is black and their children are biracial.) In the end, many of them weren’t considered a significant danger. But some, including a man who was later accused of planning a terrorist attack in Times Square, went on to commit more serious crimes.
« I was a little disappointed with the decision, » Miller said. « It seemed to ignore years of practice and the reality of the threat. »