New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg defended his choice to pay for the legal costs of two City Hall insiders who have been asked to testify in a $1.1 million politically-charged theft trial. Questions have been raised about the mayor footing the bill for the present First Deputy Mayor Patti Harris and former Deputy Mayor Kevin Sheekey.
Both have testified against John Haggerty, an Independence Party operative accused of stealing $1.1m from Bloomberg. Both confirmed under oath that Mayor Bloomberg was paying their legal costs. Bloomberg told one reporter, “You’d hope your boss would pay your legal fees. Someday, maybe you’ll find out.”
The point of legal debate in the case of Patti Harris seems to be a conflict of interest statute of the city, which states: “No public servant shall enter into any business or financial relationship with another public servant who is a superior.” Mayor Bloomberg has been asked pointed questions whether he had sought a waiver of the conflict of interest in this case. His reply so far has been, “No need to.”
Harris and Sheekey both testified that they did not find any violation of the laws of campaign finance when Haggerty was paid by Bloomberg to conduct a poll-watching initiative in 2009. Prosecutors have charged Haggerty with using Bloomberg’s funds to purchase the ownership share from his brother in their family home in Queens.
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Defense lawyers for Haggerty have said in their opening statements that the billionaire mayor and his staff have committed campaign fraud, and Haggerty is being made the fall guy.