Conflict of interest board limits donations for Mayor Bill de Blasio's legal bills

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Dave Evans reports on a legal defeat for Mayor de Blasio.

New York City's conflicts of interest board ruled that donations to help Mayor Bill de Blasio pay his legal fees for a federal corruption investigation are limited to just $50 a person.

De Blasio hired the Kramer Levin Naftails & Frankel law firm to represent him during investigations into his fund-raising tactics.

The mayor had planned to form a legal defense fund to raise contributions.

But the board said such donations must be less than $50 per contributor, or it would be considered a 'valuable gift'.

A couple of weeks ago the mayor dodged a bullet in multiple investigations about his fundraising and whether he broke the law.

Prosecutors declined to charge him or anybody on his team.

But they all face massive legal bills, about $12 million.

For the mayor's tab, he had planned on a legal defense fund, contributions to pay his lawyers.

"They are, legal defense funds have been around for decades and decades and I think are very clearly an appropriate tool," said the mayor.

But Wednesday brought the bad news. The conflicts of interest board ruled:
"contributions to legal defense funds to defray legal expenses must be viewed as gifts to public servants."

It goes on those servants "may not accept a valuable gift, that is, a contribution of $50 or more."

So where does the mayor get the money now? Wednesday he said he's not inclined to ask taxpayers for help.

"This is an investigation that to some extent things I was doing as my official work, obviously we were exonerated, but I just don't feel comfortable asking the taxpayers to pay for that piece of the equation," the mayor said.

The mayor preferred talking about major changes he's pushing for in city jails. In his three years in office the jail population at Rikers has dropped 23 percent.

And now de Blasio wants to help inmates reform so they don't become repeated offenders.

He proposed:

--5 hours a day in education and retraining.
--Inmates would get counseling from day one.
--And transitional employment upon release, costing the city $10 million a year.

"And this is what today is all about; talking about how we help good people who made a mistake to not make a mistake again," said de Blasio.

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