Mayor de Blasio’s chief campaign fund-raiser got a free Caribbean hotel stay from one of the mayor’s top donors, testimony revealed Monday.
The allegation was made by Jona Rechnitz, 34, the Brooklyn businessman who raised $193,000 for the mayor and repeatedly sought favors from City Hall.
Rechnitz, testifying for the third day in the bribery trial of a union boss, said he gifted the mayor’s close aide, Ross Offinger, by secretly paying for his hotel stay in the Dominican Republic.
“When he was away on vacation in the Dominican Republic, I paid for his hotel stay,” Rechnitz said when prosecutor Martin Bell asked if he’d ever given anything “personal” to Offinger.
Since October 2013, Offinger has been paid either by the mayor’s campaign or his now defunct nonprofit, Campaign for One New York, as a fundraiser director. He was last paid by the de Blasio reelection campaign Sept. 11, campaign finance records show.
Following the revelation, de Blasio press secretary Eric Phillips said the mayor has not yet asked Offinger about the hotel stay since it was revealed in court.
“The Mayor wasn’t aware of it and certainly would not have approved of it,” Phillips said. “The important thing to remember is that Mr. Offinger wasn’t a government employee and did not make decisions at any level for city government.”
Rechnitz was not asked and therefore did not say when he paid Offinger’s Caribbean hotel bill, but he’s testified that he was first introduced to the mayor by Offinger in October 2013.
Since then, he raised $41,000 for the mayor’s 2013 campaign, donated $50,000 to the mayor’s nonprofit, and wrote a $102,300 check he says was personally solicited by the mayor for a failed 2014 effort to flip the state Senate to Democratic control.
In return, he’s testified that he told Offinger he expected “lots of access” to City Hall and then asked for multiple favors from the mayor’s administration throughout 2014 and into 2015.
Over the weekend, de Blasio fired back at Rechnitz, who is testifying as a cooperating witness in Manhattan U.S. Attorney Joon Kim’s bribery case against former jails union boss Norman Seabrook.
Over the weekend, the mayor claimed he barely knew Rechnitz and that he didn’t recall several of the specific interactions and a damaging email Rechnitz referenced in court.
On Monday, prosecutor Bell made a point of asking Rechnitz about the frequency of his communications with the mayor. Rechnitz said he interacted with the mayor via his personal cell phone, his office phone and his personal email “on a weekly basis” before the election. After the election he said he met with the mayor “many times.”
Emails released under the Freedom of Information law quote de Blasio stating “I’m all ears” when Rechnitz suggested a candidate for Building Commissioner. The candidate wasn’t picked.