U.S. Attorneys Geoffrey Berman, whose office takes lead on serious corruption investigations, is countenancing possible obstruction of justice by Mayor Bill de Blasio.
By Progress New York Staff
The administration of Mayor Bill de Blasio (D-New York City) is coming under fire for recently revealed efforts to try to dismiss Mark Peters, commissioner of the New York City Department of Investigation, the Municipal law enforcement agency that investigates cases of waste, misconduct, and corruption. Mayor de Blasio had reportedly compiled a dossier that would serve as cause to dismiss Mr. Peters for attempting to consolidate disparate municipal investigatory powers under his Department.
In response, news reports have showed that Mr. Peters is investigating the de Blasio administration over its preferential treatment reportedly given to Jewish schools in an “ongoing Department of Education review of complaints about the secular education” provided by Jewish schools, as noted in a report published by the New York Post.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for New York’s southern district, which is headed by Geoffrey Berman, declined to answer advance questions submitted for this report.
Too big to jail ?
Under former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, Federal prosecutors examined, amongst many areas of possible campaign fundraising corruption, whether Mayor de Blasio had been providing official acts to the Hasidic community, which, in turn, may have been campaign contributors and served as get-out-the-vote operations for the troubled mayor. In March 2017, Federal prosecutors announced that the reported, wide-ranging investigation into Mayor de Blasio’s campaign finance practises would end with the pressing of no charges, despite the retaliation against at least one whistleblower.
Besides countenancing the reported interference by Mayor de Blasio’s administration into the reported investigations of his own Department of Investigation, Federal law enforcement authorities tolerated reports that Mayor de Blasio’s top Municipal legal counsel, Zachary Carter, had withheld, for a time, records requested by the Department of Investigation, which, at that time then, was probing the controversial sale of Rivington House. Charges have also been made that Mayor de Blasio has attempted to intervene in Department of Investigation probes of Joseph Ponte, the former corrections commissioner, and the lead poisoning crisis at the New York City Housing Authority, according to a report published by the New York Daily News.
Other prominent Government executives, who have used their position to monitor or to attempt to monitor reported corruption investigations of their own administrations, have included Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-New York). In a very public rebuke, then U.S. Attorney Bharara scolded the investigator that Gov. Cuomo had appointed, warning Bart Schwartz to steer clear of a reported probe being undertaken, at that time then, of the controversial, and, later, scandal-ridden, Buffalo Billion program. In the 1980’s, then Mayor Ed Koch (D-New York City) may have been able to monitor corruption investigations — of his own administration — being conducted by the Department of Investigation, according to “City For Sale,” the 1988 muckraking book by Jack Newfield and Wayne Barrett.
Obstruction of justice can take many forms and is a Federal crime. Under New York Penal Law § 195.05, obstructing the administration of law or other Governmental function is a Class A misdemeanor. Alleged violations by the City of New York of the State’s Freedom of Information Law have been referred to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. However, information obtained by Progress New York from Assistant U.S. Attorneys Rukhsanah Singh and Rebecca Tinio indicate that Federal prosecutors disregard transparency as a tool to fight corruption and explain why Federal law enforcement authorities tolerate reports of obstruction of justice and obstruction of Government administration by public officials.
- Bill de Blasio allies blast mayor over plot to fire city’s top watchdog [The New York Post]
- City’s Top Watchdog Mark Peters Warns : I Have Bill de Blasio in My Sights [The New York Times]
- City Hall pressured city’s top watchdog to tone down probes on jails chief and NYCHA lead mess [The New York Daily News]