— Sally Goldenberg (@SallyGold) March 19, 2017
Ricardo Morales, the former city official who lifted deed restrictions at Rivington House, is talking about his firing.
The deputy commissioner at the Department of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS) was terminated in late February, on the same day Mayor de Blasio was being grilled by federal prosecutors about his campaign finance practices. Morales and his attorney are speaking out in the New York Post.
Morales is not going quietly:
He’s Mayor de Blasio’s fall guy. The only city official fired in the just-concluded federal and state probes into de Blasio says he was axed for one reason — to let other civil servants know that they had better keep their traps shut, or else. “It was a message to any other deputy commissioner or assistant commissioner that if you step out of line, there will be retribution . . . They made sure I got hit,” said Ricardo Morales, a former deputy commissioner with the Department of Citywide Administrative Services.
In November of 2015, Morales signed off on the deed changes, which set the stage for the luxury condo conversion of the former nursing home. Multiple investigations later found that other higher ranking officials in the de Blasio administration were well aware of the situation but failed to act in time to save the longtime community facility. Federal and state prosecutors said last week that their investigations of the mayor’s fundraising were being dropped.
More from the Post:
Staffers with the city Department of Investigation and city comptroller quizzed Morales last March and April about two real-estate transactions that allegedly benefited developers and lobbyists who gave donations to the mayor’s campaign and the mayor’s nonprofit, the Campaign for One New York. Morales also received a federal subpoena in May… “They asked me to answer questions honestly about transactions I had managed and I did,” Morales said. After Morales talked to government investigators, he and his lawyer, Guy Oksenhendler, met with the mayor’s lawyers at Carter Ledyard & Milburn. De Blasio’s lawyers knew Morales had been subpoenaed by the feds. They peppered him with questions to strengthen their defense of the mayor. “They asked the same questions any interested prosecutor would have wanted to know the answers to,” Oksenhendler said.
City officials have said Morales’ dismissal was unrelated to Rivington House. Lisette Camilo, commissioner of the Department of Citywide Administrative Services, told a City Council committee that she could not discuss the personnel matter because it is, “very sensitive.”
While de Blasio has said he was angered by the handling of Rivington House and convinced that the developers duped the city, no one in his administration (at least not officially) has been held accountable. The mayor has also said city lawyers do not believe they have grounds to sue the previous and current owners of the building.