Bill de Blasio’s own Watergate
By Post Editorial Board July 27, 2016
It may be too early to say how many City Hall staffers should lose their jobs — or perhaps go to jail — over the rancid Rivington House scandal. But it can start with Zachary Carter, the Law Department chief.
Carter purposely withheld relevant information from a city probe into just how City Hall OK’d turning a Lower East Side hospice into condos.
Despite a request five months ago by the Department of Investigation, Carter failed to provide “all relevant documents,” says Inspector General Jodi Franzese. Instead, the Law Department sent in pages that whited-out “highly relevant” information.
On Wednesday, Carter’s folks denied that. But the redacted pages suggest he was plainly hiding evidence.
Carter obviously didn’t want to reveal when City Hall learned of plans to remove a deed restriction on the hospice site so it could be used for condos — at a profit of $72 million for the “lucky” seller. That contradicts Mayor de Blasio’s claim he only heard about it after the scandal hit the press.
Franzese notes one document, which DOI found through other sources, showing City Hall involved in the decision-making as far back as 2014. Another had info on the scrapping of another restriction, this one for a Harlem property sold to a firm that donated $10,000 to one of the mayor’s political causes.
DOI says Carter has now finally turned over all the material and agreed to let it access the relevant hard drives. But he only gave in after Franzese’s unprecedented threat to sue the Law Department.
When does one agency have to threaten lawsuits against another?
Executive Order 16 requires city officials to “cooperate fully” with probes and says any “obstruction” is “cause for removal from office” or other “appropriate penalty.” If DOI’s charges against Carter are true, he needs to go.
Others may deserve similar consequences, or worse. But that won’t be clear until DOI, the state attorney general and the US attorney complete their probes.
Ultimately, of course, the buck stops with de Blasio. At the Democratic National Convention Wednesday, he called the whole scandal “ridiculous,” sarcastically joking that it was “bigger than Watergate.”
If the mayor can’t smell the reek rising from the city’s chief lawyer obstructing a probe (not to mention the hospice deal itself), he’s more clueless than we ever imagined.