De Blasio Insists He Did Nothing Wrong After Pastor’s Arrest

Bill de Blasio at today's press conference.

Bill de Blasio at today’s press conference.

Mayor Bill de Blasio was placed on the defense today, fielding question after question about a controversial phone call he placed to police after a campaign supporter was arrested Monday night

The supporter, Bishop Orlando Findlayter, avoided a night in jail despite two open warrants, prompting accusations of favoritism and interference. But Mr. de Blasio, his talking points mastered, repeatedly insisted he only inquired about Mr. Findlayter’s status. 

“I think all of this is case-by-case and this is an unusual situation here. A very prominent member of the clergy obviously was experiencing a pretty unusual situation. So I thought it was appropriate to make an inquiry and I got a response. And that’s the end of the story,” said the mayor, speaking with the media at a storm briefing in Brooklyn.

The decision to release Mr. Findlayter, Mr. de Blasio said again and again, was made by a local commander before word of the mayor’s inquiry had reached the precinct. He maintained the NYPD handled the matter “100 percent appropriately.”

“It’s very simple: I received a report … I made an inquiry with Chief [Kim] Royster, she came back with an answer that the situation had been settled. And I thought that the precinct commander had handled it well. And that was his choice to make, obviously,” he said. “The proof’s in the pudding. The precinct commander made a decision and he made a decision based on his view of what the right thing to do is. And we respect our precinct commanders.”

Mr. de Blasio was further pressed on criticism that the very act of his call sent a message to police that the arrested man was a friend of the mayor, even if there was no specific request for his release.

“Everything’s a case-by-case basis. I have tremendous respect for the NYPD and they know it and the precinct commanders will make their best judgements and that’s their job. So I think it’s absolutely appropriate if I make an inquiry to make an inquiry and get get information,” he said, refusing to rule out making similar calls again. “A case-by-case basis literally means that. It’s a case-by-case basis.”

The mayor also refused to say whether he’d made similar calls in the past, telling reporters the situation was unique: “There’s nothing quite like this. I think everything is different and I think the bottom line is it’s appropriate to make an inquiry when you think there’s a reason to make an inquiry.”

Asked about his past criticism of the Bloomberg administration’s NYPD’s ticket-fixing scandal, in which officers’ friends were allowed to walk away without tickets, Mr. de Blasio shot back: “I don’t even understand the parallel, with all due respect.”
 
Pressed on Comptroller Scott Stringer’s statement labeling criticizing Mr. de Blasio’s “troubling” and “problematic” phone call, the mayor dodged by returning to the same talking point he used again and again during the presser.
 
“I think you look at each of these situations case by case, as I’ve said,” he said. “And if it is warranted to make an inquiry, you make an inquiry. And I just think that has to be understood for what it is.”
 
“What does make an inquiry mean?” inquired another reporter.
 
“Simply: ‘I heard this report, what’s going on?'” replied the mayor. He took two more quick questions, both on the same topic, and then departed.