New York – Trouble continues to dog Mayor Bill de Blasio who has attempted to distance himself from the corruption scandals that have rocked the NYPD, with the latest bad news for City Hall coming Tuesday as word leaked out that the mayor reportedly awarded a high paying city job to a retired police official as a favor to Jona Rechnitz.
Rechnitz, a cooperating witness who is working with the authorities in the NYPD corruption scandal in exchange for leniency, said that he called de Blasio on his cell phone from the 1 Police Plaza offices of then-NYPD Chief Philip Banks, reported the New York Post.
Sources said that de Blasio took the call, which Rechnitz put on speaker, giving Banks, then-Deputy Chief Michael Harrington and Brooklyn businessman and then-police chaplain Jeremy Reichberg the ability to listen in on the conversation.
Rechnitz reportedly asked de Blasio to appoint former Chief of Department Joseph Esposito as head of the city’s Office of Emergency Management, a position that comes with a $220,000 a year salary.
During the conversation, Rechnitz is said to have reminded the mayor that despite having made significant contributions to his election campaign, personal charities and the war chests of de Blasio’s allies, he had asked for very little in return.
Esposito was awarded the job in June 2014, despite having been a public and vocal proponent of the NYPD’s stop and frisk policy, which was repealed by de Blasio when he took office in January 2014. Rechnitz is said to have later told friends, “I’ve got the mayor on lockdown.”
Mayor de Blasio has publicly stated that he barely knew Rechnitz and Reichberg and that he met the pair close to election time. The mayor insisted that he “had not known them previously, have spent very little time with them in the scheme of things and not much at all in the last year.”
“I know of no favorable municipal action they got,” said de Blasio this past April.
Rechnitz donated the maximum allowable amount of $9,900 towards de Blasio’s mayoral campaign as well as giving $50,000 to Campaign for One New York, a now suspended charity that had been run by the mayor. He also contributed $102,300 to the mayor’s failed efforts to help Democrats take control of the State Senate in 2014, the maximum amount permitted by law.
Federal and local authorities are continuing to investigate the mayor and his administration . Eric Phillips, a spokesperson for de Blasio, said that the mayor’s office could offer no comment on the alleged phone call by Rechnitz because the ongoing probe by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara.
Phillips said that Esposito was highly qualified to head the Office of Emergency Management.
“Commissioner Esposito’s unrivaled credentials were the only reasons he got his job,” said Phillips.
A spokesperson for the OEM said that Esposito does not know Rechnitz and never discussed his position at the OEM with Rechnitz at any time.
Banks’ lawyer, Ben Brafman, said that he had no knowledge of the reported phone call between Rechnitz and the mayor. Banks unexpectedly left the NYPD in December 2014 after refusing a promotion to first deputy commissioner, but sources have said that his departure was prompted by a federal investigation of his personal bank accounts which reportedly hold hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Lawyers for Rechnitz and Reichberg refused to comment on the matter. Lawyers for Harrington, who was also charged in the corruption scheme, did not respond to inquiries about the phone call.