An ousted New York City official filed a complaint in federal court Wednesday against Mayor Bill de Blasio, alleging “unlawful retaliation” for repeatedly objecting to what he said was de Blasio’s special treatment of donors, including Harendra Singh.
Ricardo Morales, fired one year ago as deputy commissioner with the Department of Citywide Administrative Services, or DCAS, is requesting a jury trial and more than $5 million in damages, according to a civil rights action filed in the Southern District of New York.
The complaint alleges that Morales was ousted for cooperating in probes into de Blasio’s fundraising and to send a “message to all of the City’s dedicated civil servants about what happens if you oppose the personal interests of De Blasio.”
It also alleges that de Blasio and aides tried to help donors in violation of city conflict-of-interest rules and attempted to arrange for false testimony under oath before the City Council.
Southern District prosecutors declined last March to bring charges against de Blasio but were critical of his practices.
De Blasio spokeswoman Freddi Goldstein said: “As we’ve said 5,000 times, the Administration acted appropriately.”
Morales’ complaint says that “buttressing” his case is the development that Singh, a Long Island restaurateur, secretly pleaded guilty to trying to bribe de Blasio. The October 2016 plea in the Eastern District was unsealed last month in a discovery disclosed to former Long Island elected officials facing federal corruption charges.
Singh donated to de Blasio in exchange for attempts to obtain favorable lease terms for his now-shuttered Water’s Edge restaurant in Queens, Singh said in his plea hearing. The eatery owed millions of dollars in rent and other fees to the city.
DCAS oversaw the lease of land on which Water’s Edge sits.
Morales learned in 2014 that de Blasio had called then-DCAS Commissioner Stacey Cumberbatch in a gesture that the complaint said implied “Singh deserves special treatment.”
The complaint says Morales, once a recipient of a city Ethics in Government award, refused special treatment for Singh, was removed from negotiations and ultimately fired.