New York City mayor Bill de Blasio treated security detail like a 'concierge service', says watchdog

A 2019 photo shows New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio speaking at an event in Iowa, with wife Charlene McCray and his son, Dante. PHOTO: NYTIMES

NEW YORK (REUTERS) - New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio's security detail was misused for personal tasks, including helping his daughter move and shuttling his son to and from college, a watchdog agency said on Thursday (Oct 7), likening the actions to a "concierge service."

It also said the mayor has not paid back the city for more than US$300,000 (S$400,000) in security expenses related to his presidential campaign.

In a 47-page report, the city's department of investigation (DOI) found that a police van and members of the mayor's protective police detail aided Chiara de Blasio's move from her Brooklyn apartment to the mayoral residence, Gracie Mansion.

Investigators also found that members of the detail drove Dante de Blasio, the mayor's son, between the city and Yale University in Connecticut, as well as transporting him to destinations within the city.

In a lengthy rebuttal delivered at a news briefing, de Blasio said he always deferred to New York City Police Department (NYPD) security experts and called the report unfair, unprofessional and inaccurate. He also faulted investigators for failing to consult with the NYPD's top security official, John Miller, in preparing the report.

"I am literally shocked at the number of inaccuracies in this report," he said.

Miller, who accompanied de Blasio to the City Hall briefing, told reporters the police had logged 308 threats against the mayor and his family over the last eight years.

The mayor and the police inspector in charge of his detail both told investigators the children were entitled to protection, according to the report.

But DOI Commissioner Margaret Garnett told reporters that the city's police department did not assess whether the mayor's children had "legitimate security needs" before providing assistance. The detail's transportation of Dante de Blasio, she said, appeared to be little more than a "concierge service."

"Either it's not good security, or it's not good government, or it's both," she said.

The city also spent close to US$320,000 so members of de Blasio's security detail could accompany him on campaign trips in 2019, when he briefly ran for president, the report found.

The mayor's office previously filed an appeal with the city's conflicts of interest board, arguing his campaign should not be forced to pay for such costs.

De Blasio, who cannot run for reelection this year due to term limits, is reportedly considering a run for New York governor next year.

The inspector who oversees the mayor's detail deliberately sought to destroy internal messages in an effort to obstruct the investigation, Garnett said. His actions have been referred to the Manhattan district attorney's office.

The DOI investigates city government, including the use of public money.

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