Home / Top Story / Mayor de Blasio finally responds to donor's pay-to-play testimony

Mayor de Blasio finally responds to donor's pay-to-play testimony

Mayor de Blasio had a bout of memory loss Saturday during his first public comments about the damaging pay-to-play testimony of one of his biggest donors.

In a hastily called press conference in Brooklyn, the mayor labeled donor Jona Rechnitz a “liar” and a “horrible human being” — but could not recall any details of their many interactions.

Rechnitz, testifying Thursday and Friday as a government witness in the bribery trial of jails union boss Norman Seabrook, claimed he was in constant contact with the mayor via de Blasio’s personal cell phone and email.

The Brooklyn businessman raised $ 193,000 for the mayor and testified that he expected “lots of access” from City Hall in return.

De Blasio donor says his $ 100G check bought favors from the mayor

Mayor de Blasio poses Jona Rechnitz (far r.) along with Fernando Mateo (far l.) and Jeremy Reichberg (c. l.).

Mayor de Blasio poses Jona Rechnitz (far r.) along with Fernando Mateo (far l.) and Jeremy Reichberg (c. l.).

(Court Document)

On Saturday de Blasio — who had dodged questions about Rechnitz the previous day — forcefully sought to downplay his prior contacts with Rechnitz, despite Rechnitz’s testimony he was in constant communication with the mayor.

“That’s just false,” de Blasio said. “He’s trying to present some great closeness not just with me but with others and it’s just not true.”

De Blasio noted that the Manhattan U.S. Attorney did not bring charges against him, but did not mention that prosecutors made clear that they found the mayor had intervened on behalf of donors seeking favors from City Hall.

The damaging testimony came out at Norman Seabrook's bribery trial.

The damaging testimony came out at Norman Seabrook’s bribery trial.

(Alec Tabak/for New York Daily News)

And the more detailed the questions were about his interactions with Rechnitz, the fuzzier the mayor’s memory became.

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This was particularly true of a May 22, 2014, email unearthed by prosecutors from Rechnitz to de Blasio’s personal email address with the subject “Norman under control.”

In court, Rechnitz — who had a close relationship with Seabrook — said in early 2014 the mayor was upset with Seabrook for bashing his newly appointed Correction Department commissioner.

Rechnitz said he emailed “Norman under control” to let the mayor know he’d smoothed things over with the union boss.

On Saturday the mayor’s memory went blank on this back and forth about Seabrook, stating, “I have no memory of that at all.”

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Earlier the mayor’s office claimed they’d released all emails between the mayor and Rechnitz to the public in response to a Freedom of Information request — but the “Norman under control” email was not included.

Front page of the New York Daily News for Oct. 27, 2017

Front page of the New York Daily News for Oct. 27, 2017

(New York Daily News)

The mayor could not explain why it was withheld or whether he deleted it, stating, “I don’t remember that email. I have no idea what happened to it.”

His press secretary, Eric Phillips, said the city “was not in possession” of the “Norman under control” email when it released all the other Rechnitz emails to the public.

“I don’t know why it’s not in the city’s possession,” he wrote in an email in response to Daily News questions.

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“It’s not even clear it was about city business,” Phillips added. “Nobody’s saying he deleted it. The point is, and as the mayor said, the suggestion that the mayor of New York City needed Jona Rechnitz to talk to a union leader the mayor communicated frequently with is absurd. It makes much more sense that Jona Rechnitz is a lying wannabe politico with a delusional sense of importance.”

And though de Blasio insisted he was not close to Rechnitz and did not communicate with him that often, he refused to release a list of all their meetings and communications.

“No,” he said to reporters Saturday. “Because you always want everything and you’re not going to get it.”

Tags:
bill de blasio
campaign finance
de blasio campaign finance
new york corruption
jona rechnitz
norman seabrook

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