By LOUIS FLORES
Should Mayor Bill de Blasio (D-New York City) be forced to vacate his office as a consequence of the ten oversight, investigatory, or prosecutorial offices currently probing the activities and fundraising of his administration and campaign committees, respectively, Public Advocate Letitia James (D-New York City) would become mayor of the City of New York, according to the City Charter.
Such an ascension to the City’s highest office would come without any of the complicated pacts that are typically made between political campaigns and the armies of lobbyists, campaign donation bundlers, campaign consultants, county political party committee chairs, political party district leaders, political clubhouse leaders, and union leaders, including police union leaders, which generally come together to provide mayoral candidates with the necessary manpower and monies needed to win the City’s highest elected office.
That there is a possibility that Public Advocate James could become mayor without the encumbrances of such pacts or promises would give her great liberties to govern the City of New York without being beholden to the corruptive influences of various campaign supporters, whose interests often run counter to public interests.
Because one aspect of the wide-ranging, Federal corruption investigation of the de Blasio administration is focused on allegations of quid pro quo between numerous senior New York Police Department officials and prominent campaign contributors, businessmen, and even a firearms dealer, an area of critical importance for the next mayor to address would be to restore confidence in the NYPD by fully rooting out misconduct and corruption.
In decades past, mayors, such as John Lindsay (R-New York City) in 1970 and David Dinkins (D-New York City) in 1992, appointed panels to investigate the NYPD, to refer criminal cases for prosecution, and to issue reports of the panels’ findings. Mayor Lindsay formed the Knapp Commission, and Mayor Dinkins formed the Mollen Commission.
Despite the reforms that sometimes come from the formation of such panels, such as the appointment of a temporary special prosecutors to bring criminal charges against law enforcement officers found to have violated the law, as was recommended by the Knapp Commission, for example, corruption investigations conducted by panels appointed by the mayor have also led to changes in the leadership of the troubled police department.
NYPD Commissioner Howard Leary was replaced by Patrick Murphy in September 1970 after the Knapp Commission had been formed, and it was announced in August 1992 that NYPD Commissioner Lee Brown and Chief of Department David Scott were resigning and retiring, respectively, in the time after the Mollen Commission was formed. Raymond Kelly was appointed to head the NYPD after Commissioner Brown stepped down.
NYPD Commissioner William Bratton has said that he was informed about the Federal corruption investigation of the police department shortly after being sworn into office. At one point, it appeared that Commissioner Bratton knew that the possibility existed that he might not continue his commissionership into what was once believed to be Mayor de Blasio’s expected, second term in office. However, Commissioner Bratton retracted that statement after questions were raised about its inexplicability. At that time then, it was not publicly known that Federal law enforcement officials were investigating allegations of systemic corruption at the police department.
For now, no criminal charges have been brought against any senior NYPD officers. Additionally, Mayor de Blasio has not been charged with any crimes as a result of the complex investigations into each of his administration and his various campaign committees, either, and, therefore, he still holds elected office.
Consequently, the office of Public Advocate James has remained mum about how she would address the corruption controversies erupting out of the NYPD should she become mayor.
Advance questions submitted by Progress Queens on Saturday to one of her communication officials, including about the incumbency of Commissioner Bratton and the possibility of forming a panel similarly patterned after the Knapp Commission, were not answered.
In the past, however, Public Advocate James has not been complacent about the need to address criminal justice reforms. After a Staten Island grand jury refused to file criminal charges against a police officer responsible for choking Eric Gardner to death in 2014, the office of the Public Advocate sued for the release of the grand jury minutes. However, those efforts proved to be unsuccessful.