MANHATTAN — A City Council candidate who captured video footage of security guards at last week's mayoral town hall confiscating political pamphlets from attendees is calling for fines or imprisonment for both Mayor Bill de Blasio and Councilwoman Margaret Chin, claiming the duo ordered police forces to seize the offending materials.
Candidate Aaron Foldenauer, who is running against incumbent Chin for her City Council seat in District 1 this fall, on Wednesday said he filed a complaint with the U.S. Attorney's Office of the Southern District of New York against his political opponent and the mayor. The complaint alleges de Blasio and Chin orchestrated a seizure of opposing political fliers, and in doing so, violated the attendees' constitutional rights.
Despite Chin's office stating that their campaign materials were also taken by security, Foldenauer maintained those seizures were a "smokescreen" obscuring Chin's control over the town hall and its security process.
Foldenauer and his staffers, as well as other event attendees, have said security officers at the entrance to the venue confiscated political fliers at a security checkpoint. Foldenauer claims his staffers had campaign materials taken.
Video footage captured by Foldenauer shows the officers, one of whom appears to be an NYPD officer, looking through attendees' papers to determine what can be admitted.
One video shows a security officer in a suit and a blue tie take a stack of green papers that appear to be anti-Margaret Chin literature.
Foldenauer's complaint, addressed to acting U.S. Attorney Joon H. Kim, outlines these events and alleges de Blasio and Chin were "using the police and other security forces" to force the seizure of the pamphlets.
"Under normal circumstances, police officers would not take it upon themselves to inspect pieces of paper to determine whether they should be allowed in a public venue," reads the complaint.
The NYPD did not return an inquiry on whether seizing papers was NYPD protocol.
Foldenauer also points to Chin's staffers distributing newsletters with updates from the councilwoman's office inside the venue — fliers regularly distributed at community meetings — as evidence that she was complicit in the seizure outside.
The complaint claims the two politicians' alleged misdeeds add up to an infringement on event attendees' First and Fourth Amendment rights and that the two should be subject to a couple of federal criminal statutes — one that calls for fines or up to 10 years in prison for depriving someone of federally protected rights and another that calls for fines or up to one year in prison for depriving someone of their constitutional rights.
The mayor's office directed DNAinfo New York to the city's Law Department, which did not immediately return a request for comment.
Chin's campaign office responded with a statement slamming Foldenauer for his history of voting Republican — demonstrated by attached records from the city Board of Elections — and called the allegations unfounded.
"Republican Aaron Foldenauer is at it again, this time making baseless and absurd allegations against respected public officials without a shred of evidence to back up his ridiculous claims," said campaign spokesman Jake Dilemani.
"Instead of holding press conferences about meritless accusations, he should be explaining to voters how his long record of voting Republican up to the 2016 GOP Donald Trump primary aligns with Lower Manhattan's Democratic and progressive values"
The complaint can be read in full below.