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Taxpayers Spent $11.6 Million to Defend de Blasio in Fundraising Probes

By Jeff Mays | January 27, 2017 5:36pm
 Mayor Bill de Blasio defending the rising cost to defend him and his aides during multiple federal and state probes into the mayor's fundraising and the sale of an AIDS nursing home on the Lower East Side.
Mayor Bill de Blasio defending the rising cost to defend him and his aides during multiple federal and state probes into the mayor's fundraising and the sale of an AIDS nursing home on the Lower East Side.
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DNAinfo/Jeff Mays

NEW YORK CITY — It has cost New York City taxpayers $11.6 million to defend Mayor Bill de Blasio and his aides against multiple investigations into his fundraising practices.

De Blasio, speaking on WNYC's Brian Lehrer show, said it was only fair that city employees receive legal representation.

"They need representation. It is an American right. They need representation and obviously they shouldn’t have to pay for it out of their own pocket in regards to their city responsibilities," de Blasio said.

► READ MORE: Here's What We Know About the Probe Into Mayor Bill de Blasio's Fundraising

U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara is investigating whether donors to de Blasio's now defunct political nonprofit, the Campaign for One New York, received anything in return for their donations.

The nonprofit was outside of city campaign finance rules and was able to accept unlimited amounts of money from firms and individuals who had business before the city. The City Council has since passed laws governing donations to such nonprofits.

Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance Jr. is investigating whether de Blasio's fundraising efforts to help elect a Democratic majority in the state senate violated campaign finance laws.

The state Board of Elections accused de Blasio and his team, including top aide Emma Wolfe, of purposely violating election law by routing donations to three upstate senate candidates using county committees to avoid donation limits.

► READ MORE: De Blasio Probes Could Cost Taxpayers $10M to Cover 2 Years of Legal Fees

The mayor, who has denied any wrongdoing, disclosed this week that he and his lawyers met with Vance's office.

The lawyer contracts filed with the city comptroller's office are for what the city has dubbed the "John Doe Investigation," given to multiple firms to represent a "New York City employee who has been or may be subpoenaed to give testimony and/or produce document to a grand jury."

Here's the list:

► Paul B. Bergman, PC received a contract for up to $99,000 at a rate of $450 per hour.

► Cunningham Levy LLP received a contract for $200,000 with rates ranging from $250 per hour to paralegals and $550 for partners.

► Carter Ledyard & Millburn LLP received a $750,000 contract to represent employees regarding the sale of Rivington House. The contract calls for $750 per hour fee for partner G. Michael Bellinger and $650 per hour for other partners.

► Lankler Siffert & Wohl LLP received a $250,000 at $590 per hour for partners and $350 per hour for associates.

► Walden Macht & Haran LLP received a $350,000 contract at $650 per hour for partners and $450 per hour for associates.

De Blasio, who is running for re-election this year, has retained his own attorney, Barry Berke of Kramer Levin, who also represents his campaign. The mayor said the taxpayer money authorized to pay attorneys does not cover him.

► READ MORE: De Blasio Questioned by Manhattan District Attorney Amid Fundraising Probe

"Anything that is about campaigns or any other activity is covered entirely separately and in that case it has to be paid for privately," said the mayor.