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De Blasio On Donor's Pay-To-Play Allegations: Rechnitz Is 'A Liar And A Felon'

Dashed Arrow via Mayoral Flickr

Real estate investor Jona Rechnitz testified late last week about his pay-to-play relationship with Mayor Bill de Blasio, prompting the mayor to dodge reporter questions about the shockingly detailed claims, including that Rechnitz's hefty donations won him weekly private phone calls with de Blasio.

The mayor finally addressed the allegations Saturday, in a short-notice sidewalk press conference in Brooklyn.

"Jona Rechnitz is a liar and a felon. It's as simple as that," de Blasio said. "He's a convicted criminal."

"To save his own skin, he has lied about a number of things, including access to government officials. He has lied about the integrity of my administration," he added.

Rechnitz, a major de Blasio donor and member of his inaugural committee, testified Thursday and Friday as part of a corruption trial into Norman Seabrook, the disgraced former head of the Correction Officers' Benevolent Association. He is a key cooperating witness in that trial, having pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit honest services wire fraud.

Rechnitz is also a cooperating witness in several federal corruption cases involving New York City law enforcement officials and Mayor Bill de Blasio's campaign fundraising (prosecutors declined to charge de Blasio on that front in March). He testified Thursday about his close relationship with Ross Offinger, the mayor's top donor.

Offinger would "call whenever he needed money, and I'd call whenever I needed something," Rechnitz said, according to Politico. Rechnitz said that leading up to de Blasio's election, he and de Blasio would discuss "different issues in the city, if he wins, who he should be appointing for certain positions. Just talking and getting to know one another. He took my calls. We were friends."

On Friday, Rechnitz testified that he knew de Blasio was frustrated with Seabrook in the spring of 2014, and intervened on the mayor's behalf. The union head was publicly critical of Joseph Ponte, the mayor's choice to head up and reform Rikers Island.

"I told Bill as a favor to him I would get Norman to meet with Bill and be nicer to Ponte," Rechnitz said, according to the New York Times. "I got back to him to let him know that Norman was under control."

An email from Rechnitz to de Blasio's personal address was reportedly entered into evidence: "Norman under control."

De Blasio insisted Saturday that he has "no memory" of the email.

"Never met him to memory before the fall of 2013," the mayor said of Rechnitz. "Only had contact with him for a year or a year and change. Never was close to him."

"The issues have been reviewed in very careful detail by a number of different authorities, there was in intensive investigation, the authorities passed on taking any further actions in those investigations," he added. "Rehashing stories doesn't make them true."

Asked by reporters Saturday if he would make all of his correspondences with Rechnitz public, de Blasio said he would not: "You always want everything, and I am not going to give it to you."

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