Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Parks Dept. Lawyers Prevent FBI From Interviewing Employees Without Advance Notice In de Blasio's Continuing Fundraising Investigation


By Geoffrey Croft

FBI agents were turned away last week when they showed up unannounced at the Parks Department Filth Avenue headquarters to question workers regarding a contract that was awarded to a local company that makes mint-scented garbage bags. 

Joseph “Dee” Dussich, owner of JAD Corporation of America, had been peddling his invention he claims are “rodent-repellant” since at least 2007 without success with the Parks Department.  

That changed in 2015 shortly after making a sizable donation to a non-profit political group tied to Mayor Bill de Blasio.

Mr. Dussich donated $100,000 in two separate payments to Campaign for One New York, a group De Blasio’s campaign manager,   Bill Hyers helped establish in 2014 which was created to promote the mayor’s agenda.  $50,000 was donated in Dec. 2014 and another $50,000 in February 2015.  

Ten days after the second donation, Mr. Dussich was able to arrange a meeting with Mr. de Blasio at City Hall.  One month after Dussich’s second donation, the Parks Department bought $15,000 of his garbage bags.

Sources familiar with the investigation said the FBI were looking into whether Mayor de Blasio himself called Parks Department workers and asked them to meet with company officials about their trash bag pitch. In the past, the company officials had complained they were having problems getting a contract with the city. 

FBI agents questioned several city workers without advanced notice to try to get candid, unrehearsed answers. But lawyers for the city soon stepped in and stopped the questioning, several sources familiar with the investigation said. FBI agents were then told to leave the building. FBI agents being turned away by city lawyers for a time caused anger behind the scenes on both sides, sources familiar with the matter said. 

In 2013,  while fundraising on behalf of Republican mayoral candidate Joe Lhota, Dussich complained that he “couldn’t get to first base” with the Parks Department, which declined to buy his trash bags.  

Parks Department agreed to allow the feds access a few days later in a scheduled visit.   

Last week’s FBI action is part of a widening probe into whether or not de Blasio’s fundraising work was part of a deliberate effort to evade donation limits on individual campaign accounts.

According to the Campaign Finance Board, Mr. Dussich’s one hundred-thousand dollar donation is 20 times more than the $4,950 an individual can give a mayoral candidate in a single election cycle. 

The Mayor’s alleged “pay to play” fundraising tactics are the subject of several investigations. The U.S. attorney’s office, the Manhattan DA, and a State ethics panel are all looking into whether the de Blasio-related fundraising efforts violated state or federal laws.  

De Blasio's Campaign for One New York accepted millions of dollars from dozens of people and businesses currently doing or wishing to do business with the city. The scheme allowed the mayor to raise money outside the regulations of the city Campaign Finance Board.

Mr. Dussich has been subpoenaed in connection with the probe. 

The Campaign for One New York said last week it was refusing to comply with a subpoena issued by Joint Commission on Public Ethics, the New York State ethics panel that has been investigating the activities of the nonprofit political group tied to Mayor Bill de Blasio since May 2015.

Mr. Dussich has claimed that the bags -  a mix of eucalyptus, wintergreen and mint - were “100 percent effective,” in repelling vermin.

“We’re aware of this product, but have seen no proof that it is a safe or effective way to deal with rodents,” a city Health Department spokesman said spokesman said in 2007.

The Central Park Conservancy has been using the bags on a limited bases since the product was launched almost a decade ago sources told A Walk In The Park.

Originally marketed as “Repel-X” bags, the product is now called Mint-X, and advertises as the World’s First EPA-Registered Rat Repellent Trash Bags. 

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NBC - By Jonathan Dienst and Melissa Russo 

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