Mayor Bill de Blasio is once again drawing criticisms over his fundraising practices for his now-defunct nonprofit, five years after a prolonged scandal that did not result in a determination of legal wrongdoing but nonetheless left a cloud of ethical impropriety over his mayoralty. 

Late Wednesday, the New York Times broke new details showing the mayor had continued to reach out to real estate donors with ongoing projects after receiving a warning from the Conflicts of Interest Board about such conversations. De Blasio’s actions were outlined in a pair of letters from the board that the mayor’s office released only after losing a two-year legal battle with the Times to keep them private.

The letters show that in 2014, the Conflicts of Interest of Board warned de Blasio not to ask people with business before the city to give money to his nonprofit Campaign For One New York, which raised millions of dollars for the mayor’s policies that include universal pre-K and affordable housing. But he did it again anyway several months later.

Prior to the news, it had seemed as if the outgoing mayor had put the controversy over his fundraising to rest. But the new revelations stand to rekindle long-standing charges that de Blasio not only violated ethics laws by reaching out to donors with business, but continued to do so despite warnings. He also sought to obscure his actions by using taxpayer funds to challenge the Times' legal case. The allegations will likely be raised against him should he choose to seek a run for governor, something he has hinted at but has not formally announced. 

“As a good government group, it's not a great thing to have as your legacy,” said Betsy Gotbaum, the executive director of Citizens Union, which promotes transparency and accountability in New York City government. “The rule or the law says you should not take funds from people doing business with the city. He knows that's wrong. We all know that's wrong,” she added. 

But on Thursday at least, the new findings about de Blasio’s fundraising were eclipsed by bigger political news when Letitia James, the state attorney general, dropped out of the race. James had been considered the most formidable challenger to incumbent Kathy Hochul. 

Read More: New York Attorney General Letitia James Drops Out Of Governor’s Race

Appearing on MSNBC, de Blasio refused to confirm whether he would enter the race, once again declaring he wants to “stay in public service.” He was not asked about the Times story on his fundraising. The mayor only has a little more than three weeks left in office. He recently reduced his City Hall press briefings from four times a week to two.

During his first term, there were multiple investigations at the local and federal level into de Blasio’s fundraising practices for Campaign For One New York. Although the mayor was criticized for his behavior, he was never found guilty of illegal activity, a point that the mayor’s office made again in response to the latest news. 

"The calls the Mayor was making at this time were to support affordable housing legislation and his effort to achieve Universal Pre-K for every child in New York City, which is now a national model,” said Danielle Filson, de Blasio’s spokesperson, in a statement. 

“He has consistently acted in good faith and followed the process set out for him,” she added. “The Board closed these cases and determined no enforcement action was necessary."

But according to the newly released letters, COIB disagreed with that assessment. 

“By soliciting these three donations from firms with business pending or about to be pending before executive agencies, and providing no disclaimers,” a 2018 letter read, “you not only disregarded the board’s repeated written advice, but created the very appearance of coercion and improper access to you and your staff that the board’s advice sought to help you avoid.”

The Campaign For One New York dissolved in 2016, following the increased scrutiny. At the time, the mayor explained the dissolution by saying, "The work is done."

Basil Smikle, a former political strategist who now serves as the director of Hunter College’s public policy program, said that more startling than the violations themselves was the mayor's "intentionality around keeping some of that information from coming to life."

The letters would likely not have come to light had the Times not sued and spent two years in a protracted court battle with the city's Law Department.

De Blasio's fundraising outreach, he argued, revealed the inherent challenges for oversight agencies in evaluating the relationship between donors and political leaders.

“There are ways in which influence is peddled, ways in which money can be spent, that may not cross the line, but they go right up to,” he said. He urged the new class of New York City Council members to pass laws requiring more transparency and stronger accountability. 

“If nothing comes of this, it would be a shame because it is an opportunity for a new council to be able to create a stronger check and balance against the mayor,” he added.