First, it appeared to be politics as usual—as long as the usual was a bit sordid. We’re referring, of course, to the mayor’s hobbyhorse campaign to ban horse-drawn carriages from New York in exchange for a $1 million contribution from a group called NYCLASS. Then there was the sale of the nursing home on the Lower East Side where friends of the mayor managed to get a deed restriction removed. Next came the police corruption scandal with several of the mayor’s contributors receiving significant favors and improperly awarded gun licenses. Then there were campaign finance abuses so startling that the State Board of Elections called them “willful and flagrant.” After that came a garbage bag contract for a political donor. And now federal and Manhattan prosecutors are looking into a sweetheart deal for the development of property held by the Brooklyn Heights library. Every week there seems to be another serious scandal involving Mayor de Blasio or those close to him.
Mr. de Blasio’s reaction to the charges has been perplexing. First, he promised to cooperate with investigators. (There are at least five separate inquiries involving at least six different federal, state and local law enforcement and regulatory agencies.) Then he said he wasn’t going to cooperate. Then he claimed that some of the people potentially tied to the events were “agents of the city” and thus their communications with the mayor were privileged. (They are political consultants who have supported Mr. de Blasio and benefited generously from the mayor’s now-defunct slush fund, the Campaign for One New York.) Finally, Mr. de Blasio lashed out at Gov. Andrew Cuomo, saying the governor was responsible for this political vendetta.
Mayor de Blasio’s reaction to the charges has been perplexing.
In a snarling reaction to a damning accusation, the governor said, “It may all be a grand conspiracy. But then the U.S. attorney, the attorney general of the state of New York and the Manhattan district attorney are all part of a conspiracy.”
The seriousness of the charges should not be underestimated. Even The New York Times—not a particularly tough critic of the mayor—quoted a history professor from Mount Holyoke College (also no hotbed of conservatism) who said, “I can’t recall any other sort of perfect storm like this, coming from all those different angles.”
Mr. de Blasio certainly deserves the presumption of innocence that all people do. But the people of New York City deserve candid answers and the mayor’s full cooperation with investigators. We trust, for now, that Mr. de Blasio is continuing in his duties on a full-time basis. (We applaud the mayor for travelling to Albany to testify and answer questions about mayoral control, though we were disappointed that he did not attend a second hearing on the subject at 250 Broadway.)
It is not yet time to suggest that the mayor is so distracted by these investigations that he should step aside. But he needs to face up to reality and cooperate with the investigations—without excuses.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story referred imprecisely to the mayor with regard to the vigor he showed in making the case for mayoral control of the schools.