NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Stunning disclosures were released Friday about the cost to taxpayers in a citywide corruption scandal.
The city hired six law firms to defend the employees against the grand jury investigations into Mayor Bill de Blasio’s fundraising practices.
CBS2 Political Reporter Marcia Kramer said some are getting as much as $850 per hour.
When Mayor de Blasio unveiled his budget this week, he allocated $5.2 million to put in bulletproof windows in police cars, and another $5.2 million for 300 full- and part-time school crossing guards.
What he did not say is that the year’s spending plan also includes $11.6 million for a large flock of criminal lawyers to represent city officials in the ongoing state and federal grand jury investigations into how the mayor raised funds in a failed attempt to defeat state Senate Republicans.
The probes are also investigating whether the de Blasio administration did favors for donors, and how the Rivington nursing home on the Lower East Side was sold for condos.
The information contained in six city contracts for outside lawyers was obtained by CBS2 under Freedom of Information Act laws.
Mayor de Blasio defended the cost of lawyers for city employees.
“Anything related to city employees — I’m not talking about myself, I’m talking about all the other city employees — who have been a part of this process, they need representation. It is an American right,” he said. “They shouldn’t have to pay for it out of their own pocket in regards to their city responsibilities.”
It remains unclear how the mayor’s own lawyers will be paid. De Blasio’s campaign has shelled out $264,000 to three law firms.
De Blasio’s campaign spokesman said that was for the defense of political fundraiser Ross Offinger and others.
As to the question of how de Blasio’s own legal bill will be paid, spokesman Dan Levitan said, “It will be paid in an appropriate way, not by the city.”
Dick Dadey of the Citizens Union said it is not unusual for taxpayers to foot legal bills, but, “What is odd about the investigation is that it’s a huge amount of money being spent, which means that it’s a very wide investigation involving a lot of people, and I don’t think anyone would have thought the city would end up paying as much as it has.”
The sum of $11.6 million is enough to hire 145 new teachers, 172 child protective workers, 138 rookie police officers, according to the city Comptroller’s office.
“I don’t like that,” one New Yorker said, “I don’t think that’s appropriate.”
“Why should the taxpayers have to pay for corruption – defending corruption?” another said.
“If he’s gotten himself in some trouble, I don’t know why the taxpayers need to pay for his defense,” another said.
State taxpayers paid $640,000 last years to defend Gov. Andrew Cuomo and his staff in a corruption investigation. New Jersey taxpayers have paid $11.2 million so far in the Bridgegate case, but that includes trial representation.
Mayor de Blasio said again on Friday that he did nothing wrong.