Opinion: NYC deserves answers and reimbursements from Bill de Blasio

Before rushing to file for the governor’s race, Bill de Blasio should properly address his misuse of security detail as mayor and make appropriate financial reimbursements.

Last+week%2C+Bill+de+Blasio+filed+paperwork+that+set+him+up+for+a+New+York+gubernatorial+campaign.+Before+taking+further+steps%2C+he+should+address+the+concerns+surrounding+his+misuse+of+security+detail+as+mayor+and+make+financial+reimbursements+to+taxpayers.+%28Image+via+Wikimedia+Commons%29

Last week, Bill de Blasio filed paperwork that set him up for a New York gubernatorial campaign. Before taking further steps, he should address the concerns surrounding his misuse of security detail as mayor and make financial reimbursements to taxpayers. (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

By Michelle Han, Deputy Opinion Editor

With Eric Adams’ mayoral win confirmed Tuesday, Nov. 2, Mayor Bill de Blasio’s time in office is drawing to a close. De Blasio has already begun to prepare for his next political move. Last week, he moved a step closer to running for New York governor after filing paperwork to establish his campaign fundraising committee, New Yorkers for a Fair Future. However, before he looks outward toward a gubernatorial bid, de Blasio should properly address the concerns surrounding his misuse of security detail and should make appropriate reimbursements to taxpayers. 

A New York City Department of Investigation report released last month found that De Blasio misused New York City Police Department security detail as a “concierge service” a subject that de Blasio has refused to answer questions about during his press briefings. The report revealed that security was inappropriately deployed to transport him cross-country for his 2020 presidential campaign, despite the New York City Conflicts of Interest Board rules restricting official vehicle use to trips in or near the city. A total of $319,794 was spent on a security detail outside of New York, including costs of food, flights, hotels and rental cars. The city has still not been paid back for such expenditures. 

Furthermore, several police officers on de Blasio’s detail were assigned to chauffeur his children, Chiara and Dante, for personal purposes despite their status as non-protectees. An additional NYPD sprinter van was deployed to help his daughter, Chiara, in moving from her Sunset Park apartment back to her parents’ abode at Gracie Mansion in 2018. Without either de Blasio or his wife present, his son, Dante, was driven back and forth to Yale University on numerous occasions during his enrollment. Post-college, Dante was chauffeured every day for several months of 2019 and 2020 to and from his Brooklyn workplace.

There have also been ongoing struggles with de Blasio’s head of detail, Inspector Howard Redmond, obstructing DOI investigations, according to the DOI report. The report explained that he refused to turn over his city-issued phone and even attempted to destroy it after an order for its surrender, as well as having destroyed text communications from two alternate phones. 

According to the NY Daily News, Retired Detective Karl Rugg, a former member of de Blasio’s security detail, gave sworn testimony on how Redmond “went ballistic” after Rugg discovered and flagged records showing that Redmond and a female city hall staffer stayed in the same hotel room during three independent out-of-town trips. Rugg also detailed that de Blasio’s office had wasted at least $15,000 in taxpayer dollars due to last minute scheduling shifts. They also elaborated on another security officer’s personal pocketing of travel rewards gained through official city trips. 

Despite all these records being in the public record through the DOI report, de Blasio has continuously refused to pay back the minimum $320,000 he owes. When pressed by The New York Times on Rugg’s testimony, de Blasio also refused to answer questions directly. Instead, he deflected by characterizing the news’ reporting as “extraordinarily irresponsible and inaccurate.” The mayor continues to insist on conducting his press briefings virtually, citing COVID-19 concerns, despite making numerous other in-person appearances, such as his City Hall bill signing doubled as a political rally, according to Politico. By placing all of de Blasio’s press interactions online, mayoral staffers can mute out reporters and remove opportunities for reporters to directly pose questions to him. 

Before de Blasio rushes to run for an even higher office in New York government, he must first resolve the clear lack of transparency and misuse of power plaguing his current role as mayor. Instead of moving toward a bid for governor, de Blasio must give the city he claims to love proper answers and reimbursements for his blatant misuse of taxpayer dollars and security detail.

Contact Michelle Han at [email protected]