Mayor Bill de Blasio’s former campaign treasurer, who now serves as the city’s chief anti-corruption investigator, has recused himself from a probe of de Blasio campaign donors.
Amid calls for Mark Peters to step aside, his office, the Department of Investigation, said in an email Friday afternoon that he agreed to do so “in order to avoid the appearance of a conflict.”
DOI and other law enforcement agencies, including the Manhattan U.S. Attorney’s Office, have been investigating whether de Blasio donors illegally solicited favors from NYPD officials.
Peters, a former prosecutor, had previously insisted that he didn’t need to recuse himself because he is an impartial investigator.
The investigation has become a focus of the FBI and the public corruption unit of the U.S. Attorney’s Office. According to law enforcement sources, the probe is focusing on possible gifts given to police brass by Brooklyn businessmen Jona Rechnitz and Jeremy Reichberg.
So far, no one has been charged as a result of the investigation, which sources have said is also taking a preliminary look at de Blasio’s campaign finances.
Sources said the investigation also involves donations to a nonprofit set up for the mayor to further his policy agenda, as well as a controversial land deal involving the unusual removal of a restrictive deed on former AIDS housing that is becoming luxury condominiums, a matter in which a top mayoral fundraiser, James Capalino, played a lobbying role.
De Blasio’s campaign earlier this week hired a white-collar criminal defense attorney.
Dick Dadey, of the good-government group Citizens Union, on Friday praised Peters’ decision to step aside.
“It was a bad initial call,” Dadey said. “I’m glad he corrected it.... He has a particular conflict, given his past relationship to the mayor, and this was too close to the work he had previously done to absolve him of any appearance of conflict of interest.”
In 2014, soon after de Blasio was sworn in as the city’s 109th mayor, Peters told the City Council that he couldn’t think of a single instance in which he would need to recuse himself.
“I have not only no reason to believe the mayor would ever engage in unethical conduct, but I’m very confident the mayor would not engage in unethical conduct,” he said.