Mayor Bill de Blasio’s new administration may have been hit with its first minor scandal today: a report suggesting he intervened to prevent a friend from spending a night behind bars–a suggestion Mr. de Blasio’s office denies.
The Wall Street Journal reported this afternoon that Bishop Orlando Findlayter, a member of Mr. de Blasio’s inaugural committee, was spared a night in jail after the mayor contacted a top police official to inquire about his arrest Monday night.
Mr. Findlayter, a pastor at the New Hope Christian church and an early supporter of the mayor, was reportedly arrested in Brooklyn for making a left turn without signaling–and was brought in on two outstanding warrants after he failed to appear in court following an arrested at an immigration rally.
Not long after, Mr. de Blasio reportedly called NYPD Deputy Chief Kim Royster, described as “a top official in the NYPD’s press office,” to inquire about the arrest. The mayor’s office also sent emails to other NYPD officials, the paper said.
Mr. de Blasio and the bishop appear to be close. The then-public advocate had dinner with Mr. Findlayter and his wife on March 15, 2013, according to schedules obtained from his office via Freedom of Information Law Request, and Mr. de Blasio and his family attended service as the bishop’s church on September 15, 2013, according to his campaign’s public schedule for the day.
Mr. de Blasio’s wife, Chirlane McCray, also made her first public appearance as first lady at an immigration forum where Mr. Findlayter was scheduled to be a speaker.
Though the circumstances hint at mayoral interference, Mr. de Blasio’s spokesman Phil Walzak told Politicker the mayor had reached out to Ms. Royster “to get clarification on word that there had been an arrest of a respected local clergyman.” The Mayor’s office said Mr. de Blasio did not ask for the bishop to be allowed to go home or for any special treatment and said the decision to let the bishop go had been made by the local precinct commander, which is not unusual in such situations.
Ms. Royster confirmed the mayor’s call to the Journal, and also insisted that the mayor did not request Mr. Findlayter’s release.
“We always get inquiries from the mayor’s office, and the inquiry we received is if this individual was arrested or taken into custody,” Ms. Royster was quoted saying. “When I inquired about it, the commanding officer said he was taken into custody, arrested and was going to be given a desk appearance ticket.”
Police told the Journal the local arraignment court was set to close at 1 a.m., so they let Mr. Findlayter go home on the condition that he report the next day to clear up the outstanding warrant.
Mr. Findlayter could not immediately be reached for comment.