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Testimonials

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Sandro Rosell
FC Barcelona President
Monday, September 25, 2017

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio over the past fiscal year has increased spending on his "special assistants" by $4.6 million, expanding their ranks by 13 percent and handing out raises to those already on staff.

These employees, who are vaguely titled as aides and whose salaries are taxpayer-funded, make up 40 percent of de Blasio's staff, the New York Post reported Sunday night.

His staff's collective salaries were bumped by 25 percent, up to $23.3 million, from fiscal year 2016, according to payroll records.

Four members of his staff raked in more than $200,000 each, while those paid more than $100,000 each jumped to 84 individuals, up about 30 percent.

De Blasio had four of his special assistants transferred to the Department of Veterans Services, off-loading around $540,000 from the Mayor's Office.

"When you want to give someone a big raise, it's easier if you say they're doing a different job," a former city official told the Post.

The source said that de Blasio has greater flexibility to increase salaries, funded by taxpayer money, for aides by assigning them the title "special assistant."

One City Hall spokesman said the use of this title gives the de Blasio administration "more flexibility in demanding varied types of work from senior officials."

Chief of staff Kevin O'Brien is one of de Blasio's highest paid special assistants; his annual salary increased from $175,000 to $220,652 since fiscal year 2016.

The Post first revealed last year that de Blasio increased the number of special assistants by 140 percent compared to his predecessor, former Mayor Mike Bloomberg; de Blasio responded by ignoring a Post reporter at a news conference and calling the paper a "right-wing rag."

"It just shows a complete disregard for the taxpayers of the city and it also displays his mismanagement—because we're not even getting results," likely Republican challenger Nicole Malliotakis said of de Blasio's staff salaries.

On August 9, the Washington Free Beacon reported that de Blasio treated his staffers poorly and often bullied them with harsh threats if they did not meet his demands, according to newly revealed emails.

"What do I need to get you guys to follow a direct order? Do you need to experience consequences?" he threatened in one 2015 email, according to the New York Post.

"I'm not raising this again: fix it, or I will [have] no choice but to find a way to penalize people. Not my preference, but I won't have my instructions ignored," he added.

The emails show de Blasio blowing up at nearly a dozen staffers for "failing to make sure phonetic versions of challenging words were included in his speeches and talking points," according to the Post.

"This is literally the 100th time I am reminding you all that phonetic spellings require one syllable to be capitalized to indicate emphasis in pronunciation," de Blasio wrote in one furious message.

"I have no idea why you guys can't get it," he said. "All of the folks in comms, speechwriting and my personal staff who looked at these remarks — it just takes ONE to catch it."

A City Hall source told the Post that de Blasio's emails reflect how he acts in meetings and that he has been known to kick staff members out of meetings. The source went on to say that he is "condescending" and "arrogant" with a micromanaging leadership style, in which he exhibits "no confidence" in those working for him.

"Part of it stems from the fact that he used to be [a political] operative, and he thinks he can outmaneuver his aides," the source said.

De Blasio sent the aforementioned "phonetic spellings" email on Jan. 24, 2015, under the subject line "Kehilath Jeshurun," which is a misspelled reference to Upper East Side synagogue Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun.

"How can it be that none of you noticed the absence with the word Jeshurun. Work on quality control pls. Fix these remarks now pls. Example: pho-NET-ic," he fumed.

De Blasio's email was directly sent to "special assistant" Elana Leopold, who is currently on leave from his office to work on his re-election campaign. It was cc'd to Avi Fink, now deputy chief of staff, and Amy Spitalnick, who left last October to become the press secretary for state Attorney General Eric Scheniderman, according to the Post.

"Guys, I'm fed up," De Blasio fumed in a follow-up email on Feb. 6, 2015, after he blundered delivering remarks in Spanish.

"I have raised the problem of inconsistency in providing phonetic pronunciation and in providing clearly delineated Spanish (with emphasis on the proper syllable) many, many times," he wrote. "And yet between all of you, you haven’t fix [sic] the problem, which is bluntly unprofessional."

A former City Hall Staffer told the Post that de Blasio's email rants were "par for the type of emails he sent."

The Washington Free Beacon also reported on August 15th, that de Blasio took off for a family vacation in Rhode Island just days after he had convinced the city's Campaign Finance Board to award him an additional $1.6 million in public matching funds for what he called a tough reelection fight.

De Blasio was automatically entitled to $958,000 in matching funds as part of the city's campaign finance program—though he was not obligated to take the money—but requested more, claiming that the Democratic primary on Sept. 12 will be a tough reelection race, according to the New York Post.

The mayor is considered a heavy favorite in the race and it is rare for candidates to vacation so close to an election they expect to be a hard-fought battle.

"It's unfortunate that the mayor made a strong case for additional matching funds by saying he had a competitive race and then took off on vacation," Dick Dadey, director of the government watchdog Citizens Union, told the Post. "The argument that he needed it for a competitive election doesn't hold together very well."

De Blasio qualified on Aug. 3 for taxpayer matching funds, which are capped at 25 percent when a candidate is facing minimal opposition. However, he convinced the Campaign Finance Board (CFB) that his main Democratic rival, Councilman Sal Albanese, was a serious threat.

The board agreed and added $1.6 million in taxpayers matching funds on top of the $958,000 he would have already received, giving de Blasio $2.57 million.

"Public-funds payment determinations by the board are based on … objective criteria and nothing else," CFB spokesman Matthew Sollars said.

Albanese believes de Blasio is taking advantage of taxpayer money and did not need the extra funds, the Post reported. Records show the current mayor had $4.9 million is his campaign account as of last week, while Albanese had $5,397 without receiving matching money as of yet.

"He has more than enough money to get his message out," Albanese said. "His [public funds] could have gone towards improving city services."

The WFB also reported that in July,  DeBlasio ordered the police to clear out homeless people from two subway stations ahead of his four-stop press event so that the stations "looked nice," according to a new report.

Law enforcement sources told the New York Post that the police had until 11 a.m. on Sunday to eject those who were "hanging out" at the Fourth Avenue/Ninth Street and Jay Street/MetroTech F train stations.

Another source put it this way: de Blasio's office let the police know ahead of time about his schedule "with the expectation that the subway stations would be free and clear of homeless people."

De Blasio's trip from his Park Slope gym to his new campaign office in Brooklyn was part of a publicity stunt to call out New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D.) regarding funding for the city's transportation system, the Post reported.

Once aboard, Hizzoner — who was joined by a pack of journalists — launched into a diatribe against Cuomo and MTA Chairman Joe Lhota, who blamed de Blasio for refusing to spend the city’s $4 billion-plus budget surplus to fix the subways.

"Here’s the truth: They’re not even spending their capital budget," the mayor said. "There’s a huge amount of money sitting there, including the money the city gave. We gave them $2.5 billion a couple of years ago. Almost 90 percent of that money is just sitting there."

De Blasio vowed not to allocate any more funds, saying the state "has used the MTA as a piggy bank" by taking "almost half a billion dollars in money out of the MTA to use for the state budget.

"The governor and Chairman Lhota simply need to get in front of everyone [and] say, ‘We’re fully responsible, we have to fix the problem.’ They have the resources."

Staten Island Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis (R.), the presumptive challenger to de Blasio's reelection bid this year, ripped her potential opponent as a hypocrite, given his progressive views on income inequality.

"For someone who claims to care about the most poor New Yorkers, to have someone clear his path when he's about to board the subway … tells you all you need to know about Mayor de Blasio," she said.

A City Hall spokesman denied the allegations and said the Post‘s sources were making false claims.

De Blasio also found himself in an uncomfortable situation last week when a 63-year-old Queen resident began berating him over his treatment of New York police officers. One CBS reporter compared him to the "Cowardly Lion" in The Wizard Of Oz when he fled the confrontation.

By:  Katelyn Caralle
(Washington Free Beacon)