A 2016 bribery plea by a major donor to New York City mayor Bill de Blasio was made public yesterday. Harendra Singh testified under oath that he made donations to an unnamed public official to secure favourable treatment. The official is widely believed to be Mayor de Blasio.
Pay for play attempt
Singh’s sworn testimony in a Long Island court room was that he, “gave and raised tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions to an elected New York City official in exchange for efforts by that official…and other city officials to obtain official action from a New York City agency that would benefit myself and restaurants I owned.”
A restaurateur, Singh owed City Hall $700,000 in fees and back rent for the property where is Water’s Edge restaurant was located. In 2015 his lease was up, and city officials were threatening not to renew it.
Singh had personally donated $24,000 to de Blasio, and had led the Mayor use Water’s Edge to host two fundraising events (for which Singh did not charge).
Singh said, “I gave these donations to the elected official in exchange for efforts by that official and other city officials to obtain a lease renewal from the City agency for my restaurant on terms that were favorable to me.”
According to New York Daily News coverage, de Blasio personally contacted the head of the agency involved after receiving the donation from Singh.
Officials from the Department of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS) soon after tried to help Singh work out a lease renewal. The lease was in the process of being renewed when Singh was arrested in Fall 2015 for an unrelated bribery charge.
de Blasio not charged
Following Singh’s arrest he became a cooperating witness for a Manhattan US Attorney probe into de Blasio’s fundraising. In March then US Attorney Joon Kim declined to bring charges against de Blasio, but did state that he believed de Blasio had made interventions to help campaign donors.
Mayoral spokesperson Eric Phillips denied any wrongdoing by de Blasio. He told the Associated Press, “[The allegations] are old news that’s been widely reported and reviewed extensively by federal prosecutors before they closed their investigation. We make decisions on the merits. Period.”