NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Following an event in Sunset Park, Brooklyn Friday, Mayor Bill de Blasio ignored reporters questions about whether he had a corrupt relationship with real estate developer and donor Jona Rechnitz.
The U.S. government’s star witness in the trial of the former head of the nation’s largest municipal jail guard union said he bought access to New York’s mayor with big contributions.
Jona Rechnitz testified only an hour Thursday at ex-union boss Norman Seabrook‘s trial, but he had plenty to say about his influence at City Hall.
Rechnitz testified Bill de Blasio visited him after he promised to contribute between $50,000 and $100,000 to the Democrat’s 2013 mayoral campaign.
The 34-year-old Los Angeles resident says de Blasio gave him his private cellphone number and email address.
He claims the mayor always answered his calls.
“When we called for a favor, we got the results we expected,” he said.
Rechnitz testified that he called him once a week asking for everything from a spot on the mayor’s inaugural committee to making a lien on one of his Airbnb properties go away.
CBS2’s Tony Aiello asked City Council member Brad Lander about front page reports on both the Daily News and NY Post that Rechnitz had the mayor on speed dial and that the mayor took his calls.
“I didn’t read the stories. I didn’t follow the trial,” Lander said.
“I will be sure to read about it over the weekend and get back to you if you’d like,” council member David Greenfield told Aiello.
Rechnitz also implicated a dozen former NYPD officials and Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, who allegedly helped Rechnitz get special parking privileges in exchange for a $15,000 campaign donation and a discounted Rolex watch.
De Blasio was cleared in the criminal probe last March and claimed he didn’t know Rechnitz and his business partner very well.
“I never knew them particularly well. These were part of a slew of people who suddenly wanted to be connected to our world,” he said.
A mayor’s spokesman calls the testimony “re-heated, re-packaged accusations.”
“If Jona Rechnitz says he bought the mayor, he is a liar. If he says he had unfettered access, he is a liar. The only thing Jona Rechnitz can say honestly is that he is a failed fixer of grand delusion just trying to save his own skin,” City Hall Press Secretary Eric Phillips said in a statement. “These are nothing but re-heated, re-packaged accusations that have been extensively reviewed and passed on by authorities at multiple levels. The administration has never and will never make government decisions based on campaign contributions.”
GOP mayoral candidate Nicole Malliotakis said this should not be case closed.
“This investigation needs to be reopened, we can’t have a district attorney who was given $70,000 in campaign contributions from the mayor’s lawyers be looking into this, it is a conflict of interest,” she said Friday. “So it needs to be revisited.”
Challenger Bo Dietl also called on prosecutors to reopen the case into de Blasio’s campaign funding.
“We have a mayor that says he didn’t know this guy, he’s on his cell phone, he’s got his cell phone number, his email, the pay for play is so upsetting to me,” Dietl said, holding up a pair of handcuffs saying, “these handcuffs should be put on our mayor.”
A campaign spokesman for Astorino called the accusations total contrived nonsense, WCBS 880’s Marla Diamond reported.
On Thursday, Rechnitz took the stand saying he helped choreograph the bribery scheme.
Rechnitz said he introduced Seabrook to co-defendant Murray Huberfeld who ran the hedge fund.
He then negotiated how much Seabrook would get paid to invest in the fund.
Rechnitz pleaded guilty to his involvement in that bribery scheme and also for bribing de Blasio’s top campaign fundraiser.
The question now is will the scandal impact the election on November 7?
“This is something the people of New York City will not tolderate,” said Nicole Malliotakis, Republican candidate for mayor. We deserve better. We don’t want a City Hall that has a for sale sign on it.”
We know where we live. It’s a heavily democratic city,” said Christopher Malone, Lehman College Political Scientist. “It could taint his run a bit but I think it comes at a little late in the game to change the outcome.”
Still it is not a good look 11 days before an election, Aiello reported.
(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)