A mere two months into his administration, Mayor de Blasio was calling in favors that landed him on the FBI’s radar.
The feds questioned Deputy Chief Kim Royster and a Brooklyn commanding officer, Inspector Kenneth Lehr, about a phone call de Blasio made in February 2014 regarding a political ally who was then released from police custody, a source tells the Daily News.
The sit-down with the feds about the NYPD’s handling of Bishop Orlando Findlayter happened in 2016, according to the source. The interviews appeared to be part of a federal probe into de Blasio’s fundraising practices, which resulted in no charges, the source said.
“Their actions were deemed appropriate by every investigative body that reviewed the matter. It is old news on a long settled case,” Roy Richter, head of the captains’ union, said regarding Royster and Lehr.
Findlayter, who served on de Blasio’s inaugural committee, was arrested on Feb. 10, 2014, in Brooklyn after cops who pulled him over for a traffic stop found his license was suspended due to a lapse in car insurance. Police later learned that he had outstanding warrants stemming from an arrest at an immigration protest.
The Findlayter episode was one of the first scandals of the de Blasio administration. De Blasio called Royster to inquire about the minister’s arrest. Royster then called Lehr and he was released from the 67th Precinct stationhouse in Flatbush, avoiding a night in jail. Police typically hold a person with open warrants until the matter is cleared up in court.
“This was part of a broader review the FBI was previously conducting. There were zero findings of any inappropriate action by these two respected police officials, and the matter was closed years ago,” an NYPD spokeswoman said.
Findlayter, who was pastor of New Hope Christian Fellowship in Brooklyn, could not be reached for comment.
The Daily News exclusively reported in January that another member of de Blasio’s inaugural committee, Charlene Gayle, allegedly got gun permit applications upgraded and rubber-stamped by the NYPD’s license division in early 2014.
Betsy Gotbaum, executive director of the good government watchdog Citizens Union, saw nothing improper with de Blasio’s inquiry about Findlayter, who was a well-known clergyman. But she said subsequent de Blasio scandals, like the recent $173 million deal for slumlords brokered by an attorney who has donated money to the mayor, made the Findlayter episode now look more suspect than it would otherwise appear.
This week it also emerged that de Blasio broke conflict of interest rules by soliciting political donations from real estate developers asking for favors from his administration.
“This is the beginning of this type of behavior,” she said referring to the Findlayter matter. “You put it all together and it becomes more than sloppy, it’s sleazy.”