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De Blasio Gave Plum Administration Jobs to Nearly Two Dozen Fundraisers

By  James Fanelli and Murray Weiss | April 27, 2016 7:38am 

 Mayor Bill de Blasio announces Gabrielle Fialkoff's appointment as senior mayoral advisor. Fialkoff (right) is a longtime de Blasio friend who co-hosted four fundraisers for his campaign during the 2013 election.
Mayor Bill de Blasio announces Gabrielle Fialkoff's appointment as senior mayoral advisor. Fialkoff (right) is a longtime de Blasio friend who co-hosted four fundraisers for his campaign during the 2013 election.
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Mayor Bill de Blasio's Office

NEW YORK CITY — Raising money for Bill de Blasio’s mayoral run was apparently a good career move.

A DNAinfo New York analysis of Campaign Finance Board records shows that nearly two dozen people who hosted fundraisers for de Blasio during the 2013 election cycle ended up with lucrative jobs in his administration or high-level appointments to city boards.

At least three agency commissioners hosted campaign events for the mayor, including Mark Peters, the head of the Department of Investigation who recently recused himself from a federal pay-to-play probe of the mayor’s fundraising practices.

Peters, who served as treasurer of de Blasio’s 2013 campaign, either hosted or co-hosted at least seven events dating back to Nov. 9, 2010, records show. Two of the events were parties in Peters' Park Slope apartment.

Peters, a former assistant state attorney general, also held two fundraisers at his Midtown law office Jan. 5, 2012 and Jan. 10, 2013.

City payroll records show he earned $208,286 as the DOI commissioner in 2015.

Feniosky Pena-Mora, an ousted Columbia University dean with strong ties to Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez, also hosted a fundraiser at his Morningside Heights home Oct. 7, 2013. Mayor de Blasio appointed him the city Department of Design and Construction commissioner in April 2014 with an annual salary of $199,000.

Julie Menin — whom de Blasio picked as his Department of Consumer Affairs commissioner and more recently as the city’s film czar — co-hosted a fundraiser with lawyer Richard Emery on Oct. 23, 2013, at the $15 million West Village home of banker Ciaran O’Kelly. De Blasio later chose Emery to chair the Civilian Complaint Review Board.

De Blasio isn’t the first politician to give government jobs or prestigious appointments to campaign donors. Nor is the practice illegal.

But such hires disappeared for 12 years under Mayor Michael Bloomberg, de Blasio’s billionaire predecessor who bankrolled his own campaigns. And Rudy Giuliani, a former Manhattan U.S. Attorney who convicted several political party leaders and corrupt city officials in the 1980s, hired many of his closest prosecutors from that time to top positions in his mayoral administration.

Several longtime New York campaign advisers told DNAinfo New York that candidates generally prefer that political advisers or potential high-level administration officials do not host fundraisers in order to avoid creating conflicts of interests for themselves and their future administrations.

“There are plenty of people to do fundraisers, so why would you want to put anyone in a compromising position?” one highly regarded veteran of numerous campaigns said.

The campaign consultant said he was surprised de Blasio would place Peters in such a powerful position in his administration after serving as his campaign treasurer.

“Usually, the campaign treasurer is someone prominent in the world of finance, someone who is trusted but outside of the future administration," the consultant said.

De Blasio and his fundraising tactics have recently become the focus of a wide-sweeping FBI probe that has entangled two businessmen with ties to the mayor and police brass. The probe is examining whether donors to de Blasio’s mayoral run and his nonprofit, Campaign for One New York, received any favors in exchange for their contributions.

The mayor said last week that he had hired criminal lawyer Barry Berke to represent his campaign during the investigation.

Berke was also a major fundraiser for de Blasio, hosting or co-hosting at least six events between Dec. 13, 2010, and October 2013.

Four of the events were at Berke's West Village home. He also co-hosted an Oct. 22, 2013, fundraiser at the office of white-shoe law firm Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, where “Gone Baby Gone” and “The Wire” actress Amy Ryan made a guest appearance.

Campaign Finance Records show that 10 additional people who hosted or co-hosted fundraisers were later appointed to seats on the boards of city agencies or park conservancies. Six others got positions in the mayor’s office. And two received positions in the city's Economic Development Corporation and the Department of Education.

Banker Derrick Cephas held three events for de Blasio, including two at his Upper West Side home, according to Campaign Finance Board records. Former presidential candidate and Vermont Gov. Howard Dean was a guest at one of the house parties, records show.

De Blasio later appointed Cephas to the board of the New York City Housing Authority.

Lawyer Joni Kletter threw two fundraisers — an afternoon reception at a Cobble Hill brownstone on April 6, 2013, and an event at her Midtown law office Nov. 30, 2011. In July 2015, de Blasio hired her as a general counsel for his office focusing on legislative affairs.

Karen Hinton, who became the mayor’s spokeswoman in May 2015, held a breakfast fundraiser for de Blasio on Sept. 16, 2013, while working as a managing director at lobbying and communications firm Mercury Public Affairs.

At the time, Mercury boasted of Hinton's strong professional and personal ties to Gov. Andrew Cuomo — and her husband, Howard Glazer, was one of Cuomo’s oldest friends and the State Operations director.

Hinton’s soiree, which was held at Mercury’s World Trade Center office, raised approximately $55,000, records show.

Gabrielle Fialkoff, a longtime de Blasio friend and currently a senior adviser to the mayor making $203,000 a year, co-hosted four events for him between 2010 and 2013.

One event, on Oct. 21, 2013, at the Roosevelt Hotel in Midtown, featured then-U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Fialkoff and three other de Blasio supporters got top billing as hosts.

The other three were Paul Adler, a former Rockland County politico who pleaded guilty to felony fraud and bribery in 2002; James Capalino, the lobbyist who tried to get a deed restriction lifted on a nonprofit nursing home on the Lower East Side; and Sant Singh Chatwal, a hotelier who pleaded guilty in 2014 to federal campaign finance donations for making straw donations.

Hinton told DNAinfo that the de Blasio administration hires candidates who are qualified and hardworking.

"It’s no surprise that some of the people who supported the mayor would want to serve in his administration; however, merit, commitment and skill always have been the criteria for selection,” she said.