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NYC mayor defends use of tax dollars for legal fees

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio is shown speaking

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio is shown speaking during a news conference at the BronxWorks Betances Community Center on Friday, Dec. 16, 2016. Credit: Jeff Bachner

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio on Friday defended his decision to hire half a dozen private law firms, costing taxpayers as much as $11.6 million, to represent city officials like himself in criminal probes of fundraising activities.

On the weekly show he co-hosts with WNYC’s Brian Lehrer, de Blasio said that not all of the money would go to the investigations but that city officials “need representation.”

“It is an American right. They need representation, and obviously they shouldn’t have to pay for it out of their own pocket in regards to their city responsibilities,” he said.

According to published reports, separate but overlapping grand juries are scrutinizing de Blasio and his close aides.

A probe led by the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office is examining de Blasio’s failed bid to flip control of the State Senate from Republican to Democratic hands. The effort funneled donors’ money from upstate county committees to vulnerable seats elsewhere, records show.

The federal inquiry is investigating whether the de Blasio team gave favorable treatment to a fundraiser and donor, indicted restaurateur Harendra Singh of Long Island.

De Blasio chafed when Lehrer asked: “Why shouldn’t your campaign pay the lawyers’ bill?” He declined to give the breakdown of how much money would go to handling the fundraising probes.

“We were very careful to follow all appropriate rules, and I think at the end of the day, a huge amount of time and energy will be put into this, and nothing will come of it,” de Blasio said. “But, so long as there are investigations asking city employees to come in and be interviewed and go before different panels, they need legal representation.”

Earlier in the week, de Blasio acknowledged that investigators from the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office had questioned him in the presence of his attorneys.


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