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De Blasio violated ethics rules by courting developer donations: report

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A probe by the city’s Department of Investigation found fundraising activity that violated conflict of interest rules

Security Tightens In NYC Ahead Of Clinton And Trump Election Night Events Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration has long been criticized for being chummy with the developers he promised to hold to account when he took office in 2014, with the Campaign for One New York—the nonprofit he established in 2013 to advance his pet projects, such as universal pre-K—a particular source of opprobrium.

CONY, which disbanded in 2016, came under scrutiny over accusations that it solicited donations from developers and other groups that had pending business with the city. A federal investigation, launched in 2016, ultimately found that there was not enough evidence to bring charges against de Blasio.

But a probe into CONY by the city’s Department of Investigation provides evidence that the mayor may have, in fact, violated city conflict of interest rules by seeking donations “from an individual who had or whose organization had, a matter pending or about to be pending before any executive branch of the City.”

THE CITY first reported on the DOI’s investigation, which began in 2016 and ended in October of last year. A copy of the DOI summation of its findings is now public, albeit heavily redacted.

A large chunk of the summation focuses on de Blasio’s relationship with developers. Throughout CONY’s existence, it received several sizable donations from developers, including TF Cornerstone, John Catsimatidis’s Red Apple Group, Brookfield Property Group (which donated $50,000), Two Trees Management (which donated $100,000), and Toll Brothers.

Four developers were interviewed over the course of the DOI’s investigation, though their identities have all been redacted in the summation. But THE CITY identified one, Toll Brothers, through public records connected to the matters named in the report. One of its executives was interviewed by DOI concerning its Pierhouse development at Brooklyn Bridge Park, which was the subject of fierce community opposition and lawsuits as it was being constructed.

A spokesperson for the de Blasio administration told THE CITY that “[t]hese questions are asked and answered. Fundraising for the now-defunct Campaign for One New York was thoroughly reviewed by multiple parties and it was determined there was no wrongdoing. It’s been said a million times: the Mayor acted lawfully and ethically.”

The New York Post notes that as de Blasio toys with a possible presidential campaign, his fundraising activities—and ties to developers—may again come under scrutiny. His political action committee, Fairness PAC—established to “strengthen the progressive wing of the Democratic party”—was recently feted in Boston, with the fundraiser thrown by a prominent development firm in that city.