Mayor de Blasio’s Investigations Pick Sails Forward With One Abstention

Jumaane Williams (Photo: Facebook)

Jumaane Williams (Photo: Facebook)

The City Council rules committee today voted overwhelmingly to confirm Mayor Bill de Blasio’s pick to lead the Department of Investigation, but one council member wasn’t completely thrilled with the move. 

Councilman Jumaane Williams, a member of the committee, abstained from the vote–the only council member to do so–arguing the candidate, Mark Peters, who served as Mr. de Blasio’s campaign treasurer, is too close to the new mayor.

“My conflict was more in the appearance and the precedent that it sets going forward,” Mr. Williams told reporters after the vote. “It was really difficult for me so I just figured I’d abstain and make sure there was at least somebody making sure that position was heard.”

Still, he told reporters he believed Mr. Peters would be qualified to serve as commissioner.

“I’m happy, I supported de Blasio, I think it’s a good pick for DOI,” he said. “But you know in 12 years or something or whatever, you may have a mayor everybody doesn’t like and does something similar. And then what?”

A longtime friend and neighbor of Mr. de Blasio’s, Mr. Peters will be charged with investigating the new administration and holding city agencies accountable, if he is confirmed by the full council later this afternoon.

Mr. Peters was grilled last week by members of the committee over his cozy relationship with Mr. de Blasio in what many saw as an attempt by the council to prove its independence from the new mayor. Several members, including Mr. Williams and Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito–a de Blasio ally–questioned whether Mr. Peters could really be independent given the pair’s close relationship. (Ms. Mark-Viverito has faced similar questions, too.)

However, all of the members of the rules committee except for Mr. Williams approved the pick.

Councilman Brad Lander, the chair of the rules committee, said in a statement he was aware of concerns about Mr. Peters’ independence, but that after last week’s hearing, he was convinced this would not pose a problem.

“The only significant concern that arose in our deliberations is whether Mr. Peters’ recent service as the treasurer for Mayor de Blasio’s campaign and transition, and by extension his relationship with the Mayor, presents a problem for the zealous fulfillment of his duties,” Mr. Lander said. “After this Committee’s questioning of him at our hearing, as well as a review of the transcript, the briefing materials, and the requirements of the Charter, I am satisfied that it does not present a problem.”