Former New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio was hit with a historic fine Thursday by the city’s Conflicts of Interest Board (COIB) for using a police security detail for his ill-fated presidential run in 2019. Finding that the mayor used taxpayer dollars for political purposes, the board ordered de Blasio to pay $474,794 — a whopping sum that includes compensating the city for police officers’ travel expenses and a $155,000 fine, the largest ever issued by the board, Politico reports. “Although there is a City purpose in the City paying for an NYPD security detail for the City’s Mayor, including the security detail’s salary and overtime, there is no City purpose in paying for the extra expenses incurred by that NYPD security detail to travel at a distance from the City to accompany the Mayor or his family on trips for his campaign for President of the United States,” board members wrote.
In response, de Blasio filed a lawsuit. Andrew Celli, said, “In the wake of the January 6th insurrection, the shootings of Congress members [Gabby] Giffords and [Steve] Scalise, and almost daily threats directed at local leaders around the country, the COIB’s action — which seeks to saddle elected officials with security costs that the City has properly borne for decades — is dangerous, beyond the scope of their powers, and illegal.” De Blasio went on 31 out-of-state campaign trips through the fall of 2019, racking up $319,794 in the same type of security-detail costs the board had warned against. He dropped out of the race in September 2019 after he was unable to get more than 1 percent in the polls and struggled to fundraise for the long-shot bid. John Miller, a former high-ranking police official who helped oversee mayoral security, said the board’s ruling runs contrary to the thought process of the police department at the time. The mayor’s security detail protected him during all trips whether they were personal or for work, Miller said. The fact de Blasio was leaving town to run for president — as opposed to visiting family or another dignitary out-of-state — did not change the underlying calculus: The mayor was often working on official business when out of town including for the campaign. New York City mayors are constantly under threat because they are among the more visible political figures.