Mayor Bill de Blasio’s scramble to get out of Iowa and back to the city amid Saturday’s Manhattan blackout added last-minute costs to taxpayers’ burden of funding his security squad.
A team of detectives shadows de Blasio and his wife, Chirlane McCray, during their frequent out-of-town jaunts in his quest for the presidency. De Blasio’s campaign pays for his and McCray’s expenses — but taxpayers cover cops’ airfare, hotels, rental cars and meals.
On Monday, THE CITY reported the public already has shelled out at least $100,000 for the security tab.
Some of the costs appear go beyond federal guidelines, followed by the NYPD, that restrict how much government workers should spend on travel. De Blasio’s campaign sometimes makes eleventh-hour arrangements that require airline tickets and hotel stays at rates exceeding the federal limits.
De Blasio’s response during the weekend’s Manhattan blackout that shut down western Midtown while he was in the Midwest offers a case in point.
Confronted with reports that the blackout was worse than he initially thought, the mayor suddenly change his plans late Saturday. He booked hotel rooms and flights out of Chicago to get back to the city by Sunday afternoon.
He and his team stayed at a hotel near Chicago’s O’Hare airport and took a flight out the next day.
The federal guidelines cap Chicago hotel rates at $183 per night. Rooms at the Hilton at O’Hare start at $340. The federal cap for a Chicago-to-New York flight is $118 one-way. A check of several airlines Monday put the cheapest flight out of Chicago at $199.
Police Mum on Expenses
The NYPD refuses to reveal how much has been spent on campaign travel expenses to date, arguing that to do so would let the public to extrapolate the scope of the security team, making the mayor and his wife vulnerable.
On Monday, under questioning by NY1’s Errol Louis, de Blasio made clear the spontaneous nature of his decision to abandon campaigning in Waterloo, Iowa, and return to New York.
The mayor said he’d received “preliminary” information indicating the blackout wasn’t too serious, and he initially wasn’t planning on leaving. But he said he changed his mind late Saturday after learning the failure had spread from Times Square to the Penn Station area.
“Once it was clear it was not [limited], off I went,” he said.
The mayor was driven four hours back to Chicago in the dark. De Blasio said he was told during the ride that the blackout was over, but he continued to Chicago anyway.
“I came back because I was already so far along at that point. I got a call that it was resolved but I was already on my way,” he said.
NY1’s Louis noted that when de Blasio was public advocate in 2010, he had criticized then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who was apparently out of town when a huge post-Christmas blizzard crippled the city.
‘I’m Going to Learn’
De Blasio argued that the weekend blackout in Manhattan was different because it struck without warning. With Bloomberg’s blizzard, he contended, “There were warning signs.”
Asked whether he fears future incidents occurring while he’s off campaigning out of state, the mayor said he’d examine whether he needs to change his tactics.
“We’re going to assess the situation,” de Blasio said. “I’m going to learn from this incident what we need to know going forward.”
THE CITY’s finding that more than $100,000 in public funds has been spent to date on security for the mayor and his wife was based on the number of trips de Blasio and McCray have made to Iowa, South Carolina, Nevada, New Hampshire, Wisconsin and Illinois since he announced his candidacy in mid-May.
The estimate is conservative one, applying the airfare, hotel and meal amounts recommended by federal guidelines the NYPD relies on when funding out-of-town travel.
A former detective assigned to the mayoral security detail under Bloomberg told THE CITY the security detail ranges from 10 to 12 detectives, including two supervisors.
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