NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Rachel Noerdlinger, the embattled chief of staff for First Lady Chirlane McCray, announced she is taking an unpaid leave of absence following the recent arrest of her son.
“I have decided to take a leave of absence to spend more time with my son,” Noerdlinger said in a statement released Monday. “These past two months have been extremely difficult for both of us, and his arrest on Friday heightens the need for me to devote my full attention to Khari, my number one priority.”
Khari Noerdlinger, 17, was arrested on a misdemeanor criminal trespassing charge Friday night, the same day as his mother’s 44th birthday. According to a criminal complaint, the teen was in an apartment building Friday and couldn’t tell authorities who he was there to see. Police said there was a sign that read: “No trespassing, this is a building for tenants and their guests only.” They said he had no identification so he was arrested.
The family’s attorney, Jeffrey Lichtman, told 1010 WINS Khari Noerdlinger was immediately given an adjournment in contemplation of dismissal.
“In six months the case is dismissed, the arrest is sealed as if it never even occurred and obviously it’s the best possible outcome to any criminal charge,” Lichtman said. “He’s not happy with being charged with something, but certainly is happy with the result. The prosecutor came to us with the offer, the case is about as minor as it can be and if not for the fact that his mother is someone in the news this would be a completely nondescript, unimportant case.”
Word of Noerdlinger’s leave of absence comes after there were calls for her to step down following the revelation of her relationship with boyfriend Hassaun McFarlan, a.k.a Hassaun Ackles, who served time for manslaughter and drugs and has let his anti-police feelings spill out on his Facebook page.
“I can handle criticism and scrutiny of me, even when it’s mean-spirited — that comes with the territory when you take on the status quo,” Noerdlinger said. “But increasingly, my son has been subjected to attacks that have nothing to do with the public interest, and everything to do with derailing this administration. I do not want to be a distraction — the work at hand is far too urgent.”
Noerdlinger said she is thankful to the mayor and his wife for their “unwavering support” over the last few months.
At a press conference Monday, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Noerdlinger was a hardworking public servant, and lamented what he called an over-focus on the private lives of public officials.
“Character assassination happens every day in public life,” he said. “What’s sad is when it goes beyond the boundary of public service — We have to get on with the work and not be putting so much energy into one person’s personal life.”
As CBS2 Political Reporter Marcia Kramer explained, De Blasio, who has steadfastly stood by Noerdlinger, also compared what happened to her to 1950s McCarthyism.
“We saw this in the 1950s, we’ve seen this throughout the history of this country, if someone wants to smear people and use that for political purposes there’s a pretty easy playbook for doing it. It’s repulsive, but it’s become quite common,” de Blasio said. “The public doesn’t want to talk about these scandals and gossip and everything else. They want to talk about what will make their lives better and I for one am not going to be distracted.”
The mayor’s office released a statement thanking Noerdlinger for her service.
“She has been a great asset to the administration and the people of New York City over the past year, and everyone wishes her all the best during her leave,” Rebecca Katz, special advisor to the mayor, said.
The Rev. Al Sharpton also released a statement supporting his former spokeswoman’s decision to take a leave of absence.
“National Action Network and I fully support Rachel Noerdlinger in her decision to take a leave of absence at some point from her duties as Chief of Staff to the First Lady of New York, so she can spend time with her son,” Sharpton said. “Rachel has been a valuable asset to the progressive movement, the City of New York, National Action Network and myself; but she has always made it clear that she is a mother first.”
“I spoke with Mayor de Blasio and assured him that I will continue to work with him and the administration on the political progressive agenda we both agree on and will disagree with him when it becomes necessary,” Sharpton added. “I respect he and the First Lady’s sensitivity to Rachel’s parental concern. I in no way was part of Rachel being hired or maintaining her position with the First Lady as some have reported, but knowing her skills I know the tremendous contributions her talents give all New Yorkers.”
Noerdlinger has come under scrutiny for failing to disclose her relationship with a felon prior to taking her $170,000-a-year-job with McCray. There have also been reports that she failed to pay an E-ZPass bill of more than $7,000 and nine parking tickets totaling nearly $900.
Noerdlinger was also reportedly a passenger when McFarlan drove her Mercedes on the wrong side of the street in 2011. Sources said cops smelled marijuana when they stopped the car and that there was an underage minor in the back seat.
McFarlan can be heard on the recording letting the judge know the car belongs to the first lady’s chief of staff.
The judge then says, “I don’t care about that.”
McFarlan is also heard on the recording complaining that the NYPD is targeting him for parking violations because he is black.
The parking judge dismissed McFarlan’s claims of racism on the part of the parking ticket officers, pointing out that officers do not know the race or nationality of the owner of a car when giving out tickets.
The tickets were for offenses such as parking near fire hydrants and in a crosswalk, and having an expired meter.
Noerdlinger has been allowed to leave the administration for an unspecified period of time.
“That’s an open-ended dynamic as she works on trying to make sure she can do all she can for her family,” de Blasio said.
Noerdlinger’s position is going to be filled, but the mayor said she’ll be welcome to come back in another position when she decides the time is right, CBS2’s Marcia Kramer reported.
Patrick J. Lynch, president of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, said whoever gets the position should have some understanding of the important role played by police in keeping the city safe.
“Should City Hall decide to fill what is a very questionable position, we hope they can find someone who appreciates the critical role that police have in making this city a viable place to live and who will not bring an anti-police bias to the table,” Lynch said in a statement.
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