New York, NY – New York Police Department Commissioner Raymond Kelly accepted five free trips to Florida aboard Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s private jet last year, records released Tuesday revealed, raising questions about whether the billionaire mayor offered free air travel to other city employees.
Mr. Kelly, who has led the NYPD since the mayor took office in 2002, is the only high-ranking city official to list the free plane rides on financial disclosure reports filed with the city’s Conflicts of Interest Board. A spokesman for the mayor, Stu Loeser, didn’t respond to inquiries about the mayor’s private plane and who else may have received free trips.
On the disclosure report, the police commissioner didn’t venture a guess on the cost of the freebie trips. “Value unknown,” he wrote.
In an interview with New York magazine earlier this year, Mr. Kelly commented on the trips that he and his wife, Veronica, take on the mayor’s jet. The mayor goes to Bermuda, where he has a vacation home, and the Kellys get off in Florida, where they have a weekend retreat.
“It’s great,” Mr. Kelly told the magazine, referring to the free plane trips. “Only way to travel.”
A spokesman for Mr. Kelly also didn’t respond to a request for comment.
During his 8 ½ years in office, Mr. Bloomberg has regularly used his private plane as a perk to bestow on elected officials and others he’s trying to woo.
In 2002, he flew Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and then-Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno to his Bermuda home. He’s given rides to others on trips to Israel, Ireland and the Dominican Republic.
The Conflicts of Interest Board hasn’t issued any rulings on the propriety of these trips. But one advisory opinion noted, “If the gifts from the superior to a subordinate start to get fairly regular and extravagant, people may begin to wonder what kind of silence the superior is attempting to buy.”
Gene Russianoff, a senior attorney at the New York Public Interest Research Group, said he would be more concerned if the trips were more frequent. It was unclear whether Mr. Kelly accepted free rides prior to 2009.
“It would be more troubling to me if it were a regular thing,” Mr. Russianoff said. “It’s good to work for a billionaire with a plane,” he joked.
The mayor is not the only person at City Hall lending a helping hand to a colleague. Deputy Mayor Linda Gibbs gave James Anderson, who left his post this year as the mayor’s communications director to work at Mr. Bloomberg’s philanthropic foundation, a personal loan valued at between $60,000 and $99,999, according to Ms. Gibbs’s report.
Mr. Anderson and Ms. Gibbs declined to comment on the loan.
Elsewhere on the forms, two city commissioners reported accepting free international trips.
Patricia Gatling, chairwoman of the city’s Commission on Human Rights, allowed the non-profit group, Corporate Counsel Women of Color, to pay for a trip to South Africa. She served as a panelist on a careers symposium.
Through a spokeswoman, Ms. Gatling declined comment on the trip, which cost between $5,000 and $39,999, according to the filing.
Jeanne Mullgrav, the commissioner of the Department of Youth and Community Development, traveled to Jerusalem last October for a number of conferences, according to her filing, which puts the trip between $1,000 and $4,999. The travel was paid for by the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York and the Jerusalem Inter-Cultural Center, her filing says.
During the trip, Ms. Mullgrav sought “to exchange best practicies [sic] and ideas of sustainable urban development” with government and nonprofit leaders. A spokeswoman for Ms. Mullgrav didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Roughly 8,000 of the city’s 300,000 employees are required to file annual financial disclosure reports with the city. This year, as of Tuesday, 58 failed to file, 54 filed after the deadline and 477 requested a portion of their report remain private.
Two city officials who requested privacy are deputy city comptrollers Alan van Capelle and Lawrence M. Schloss, who Comptroller John Liu appointed as his office’s chief investment officer. Sharon Lee, a spokeswoman for the comptroller, said she could not reach the two officials.