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De Blasio stands by call about arrested ally

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio speaks

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio speaks to the media after he delivered remarks to clergy during a breakfast in support of Mayor de Blasio's Universal Pre-K plan at Bethany Baptist Church on Feb. 11, 2014. Credit: Charles Eckert

Mayor Bill de Blasio, facing criticism for personally phoning the NYPD about an arrested ally, Thursday wouldn't rule out making such inquiries in the future and said that he would consider what to do "on a case-by-case basis."

De Blasio called a top NYPD official on Monday night to find out about Bishop Orlando Findlayter, senior pastor of Brooklyn's New Hope Christian Fellowship church and an early endorser of de Blasio's mayoral bid, who had been taken into custody on suspicion of driving without auto insurance and outstanding warrants on an arrest from a protest.

"This was an unusual situation, where a very prominent member of the clergy obviously was experiencing a pretty unusual situation, so I thought it was appropriate to make an inquiry, and I got a response and that's the end of the story," de Blasio told reporters.

De Blasio said he did not ask for a favor when he spoke to the official, Deputy Chief Kim Royster of the NYPD's press office. Both have said that by the time the mayor reached Royster, the commander of the precinct where the clergyman was under arrest, had already decided to free Findlayter, 50, rather than hold him until he could be brought to court in the morning.

Findlayter, who served on de Blasio's inauguration committee, the next day went to court to vacate the warrants, a spokesman for the court system has said.

Asked about criticism by City Comptroller Scott Stringer, who called the involvement of a mayor in an arrest "problematic," de Blasio said: "The precinct commander made his decision, by the time I even got an answer the decision had been made, and that's appropriate."

Others, including good-government groups and policing experts, have criticized the mayor's decision as putting undue pressure on police, even if he didn't make any explicit plea for leniency.

Susan Lerner, executive director of Common Cause, Thursday called the mayor's actions a "terrible precedent."

"The only thing unusual about the situation regarding Pastor Findlayter is that the mayor involved himself in a police matter on behalf of a supporter and a friend. It is inappropriate for the mayor to exercise favoritism, regardless of the pastor's prominence," she said in a statement.

Asked whether he made such calls in the past, de Blasio said: "There's nothing quite like this. I think everything is different. And I think the bottom line is, it's appropriate to make an inquiry when you think there's a reason to make an inquiry."


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