New York City taxpayers paid the high cost of claiming the moral high ground after Mayor Bill de Blasio ignored the advice of city lawyers and signed off on the $41 million Central Park Five settlement, reports the New York Daily News. The mayor approved the payout to the plaintiffs after city lawyers urged a $15 million payout or taking the 11-year-old civil case to trial. While de Blasio labeled the settlement a “moral obligation,” attorneys at the city Law Department felt the deal reeked of politics after the neophyte mayor undercut their case and ignored a decade of their hard work.
The deal, approved by a judge in September, disregarded a recommended $15 million payout cap and blocked the lawyers from fighting a wrongful conviction suit that many viewed as winnable, the Daily News says. They were overruled by de Blasio, who ordered their new boss, Corporation Counsel Zachary Carter, to settle the case, leaving the lawyers to try and minimize the damage to taxpayers. A review of the payout to the five black and Hispanic men wrongly convicted in the racially divisive 1989 rape case shows the city attorneys, armed with evidence from their own investigation, presented the case against the settlement this spring. De Blasio went the other way, reversing the Bloomberg administration's long battle against the multimillion-dollar suit.