The real reason for Lhota’s resignation — Cuomo signs gun restrictions, child care bill — Gillibrand, de Blasio to hit debate stage


When Joe Lhota abruptly resigned from his job running the Metropolitan Transportation Authority last fall, he and Gov. Andrew Cuomo insisted there was nothing to see here: he had come on board to tackle a subway crisis, and departed in due course.

It turns out that the truth was different, as our Dana Rubinstein reports. Lhota actually quit because a state ethics board found that he had too many potential conflicts of interest to keep the job, his resignation letter reveals.

The letter — which the governor’s office first resisted handing over under public information laws, before relenting when POLITICO appealed — spells it out plainly. The Joint Commission on Public Ethics determined that “my outside activities are legally incompatible with my obligations under the state’s Public Officers Law,” Lhota wrote.

His extracurricular activities included a well-paid seat on the board of the company that runs Madison Square Garden, which presented all kinds of potential conflicts with the MTA: It sits on top of New York Penn Station, which houses two subway stations and the Long Island Rail Road, and many argue the arena must be moved to allow improvements to the much-despised station.

Lhota has since been replaced by current MTA chairman Pat Foye, but without reforms to prevent similar conflicts of interest going forward. Good government groups have long urged a ban on outside income for figures like MTA chairmen, and Lhota’s case will give them a prime example in one of the state’s biggest problem areas to press upon.

It’s Wednesday. Got tips, suggestions or thoughts? Let us know … By email: EDurkin@politico.com and NNiedzwiadek@politico.com, or on Twitter: @erinmdurkin and @NickNiedz

WHERE’S ANDREW? In New York City, with no public schedule.

WHERE’S BILL? In Detroit, participating in the Democratic presidential debate tonight.

Today’s tabloids: New York Post: “SEARCH PARTY” — Daily News: “DEADLY DELIVERY” — Newsday: “DEMS CLASH” — El Diario: “Divine scam?” — See them

Today’s Broadsheets: — New York Times: — 2 col., above the fold: “A Diagnosis Can Give Students Extra Test Time (Money Helps)” — 3 col., below the fold: “One Gap in Bank’s Armor, and a Hacker Slips In” — Wall Street Journal: — 4 col., above the fold: “Sanders, Warren Fight Back Against Moderates in Debate” — 3 col., below the fold: “Big Storms and Fires Clear Path for Disaster Investors” — See them

Quote of the Day: “Best wishes to all my comrades tonight. Looking forward to a lively debate.” — Mayor Bill de Blasio, debate enthusiast

“THE HAMMER OF LAW enforcement came down on Juan Rodriguez scarcely as soon as he comprehended the horror: His twin babies had died, trapped in a Honda sedan he’d parked in summer’s heat Friday while he went to work in The Bronx. The grieving father found himself under NYPD arrest shortly after he’d called 911 at about 4 p.m. Rodriguez, 39, told police that he’d forgotten to drop off Phoenix and Luna at daycare before his eight-hour shift at the James J. Peters VA Medical Center in Kingsbridge. That night, Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark charged Rodriguez with two counts each of manslaughter, criminal negligent homicide and endangering the welfare of a child. To secure his freedom, he paid $50,000 on a $100,000 bail bond. He could face up to 19 years in prison.” The City’s Reuven Blau and Rosa Goldensohn

AS MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO was openly considering a run for the White House earlier this year, an agency under his purview provided a venue for Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s competing campaign. Warren met with supporters in March at a space owned and operated by the New York City Economic Development Corporation, which provided the venue for free, helped arrange the visit and sent a staffer from its public relations department. The agency’s assistance came at a curious time: Warren was in New York City that day to deliver remarks at the site of the city’s failed Amazon headquarters deal which was, ironically, spearheaded by the EDC. POLITICO’s Joe Anuta and Sally Goldenberg

“LAWYERS FOR INSURGENT Queens District Attorney hopeful Tiffany Cabán go to court [Wednesday] morning hoping to achieve a result that has not occurred in recent New York City history (and maybe ever): changing the outcome of a certified primary election. The goal, the attorneys say, is to resuscitate more than 100 invalidated ballots and overcome Cabán’s 60-vote deficit behind establishment candidate, Borough President Melinda Katz…Board of Elections General Counsel Steven Richman emphasized the long odds that Cabán faces in an interview with the Eagle. Since he started at the Board of Elections in 1999, ‘In no case has the outcome changed. Just the margin has changed.’” Queens Daily Eagle’s Emma Whitford

“CITY COUNCIL SPEAKER Corey Johnson continued to wage his war against motorists Tuesdaydeclaring that cars should no longer be ‘king of the road.’ Responding to the death of 30-year-old Brooklyn cyclist a day earlier — the 18th bike rider killed in the city this year — Johnson told NY1 ‘it’s time to reclaim our streets for pedestrians and bicyclists.’ ‘Enough of putting cars Number 1, and making cars the king of the road,’ he added. ‘You’re literally taking your life in your hands if you’re not biking in a protected bike lane.’” New York Post’s Rich Calder

“LAYLEEN POLANCO died in her solitary cell from a seizure related to epilepsy, the city medical examiner’s office announced Tuesday. Polanco, 27, was taking a drug called Keppra twice a day for the condition — but was still cleared by city medical staff to be placed in the jail’s solitary unit, according to family lawyer David Shanies, who cited her jail medical records. Inmates with serious medical conditions are not supposed to be placed into punitive segregation areas, under city regulations. ‘The autopsy confirms what the family suspected from the beginning, which is that Layleen died as a result of indifference and neglect,’ Shanies said.” The City’s Rosa Goldensohn and Reuven Blau

“A DEPUTY COMMISSIONER AT NEW YORK CITY’s social-services agency was fired after a judge in a disciplinary trial ruled he inaccurately designated 30 employees as performing Medicaid work, forcing the city to repay more than $7 million to the state. In a decision last month, a city administrative judge found that Thomas Colon, 49 years old, wrongly designated employees as performing only Medicaid-related work, which is eligible for a state reimbursement.” Wall Street Journal’s Katie Honan

“STATE LAWMAKERS MAY HAVE TO LIVE with only 60 percent of the pay raise that a special compensation commission authorized last year. The fate of salary increases for 2020 and 2021, which were in limbo following an ambiguous court ruling in June, was at least temporarily resolved on Friday when state Supreme Court Justice Christina Ryba clarified that her decision tossed out future raises. The judge issued the written clarification at the request of the attorney general’s office. Any raises beyond the $30,500 increase that went into effect in January were declared null and void because they were tied to restrictions on private income for members of the state Legislature, which Ryba found exceeded the authority of the commission.” Times Union’s Dave Lombardo

“HEALTH-CARE SPENDING ON NEW YORKERS who get insurance through work is higher and rising more sharply than the national average. The main reason, according to a new report, is price growth. Rising prices of doctor visits, inpatient services and prescription drugs—particularly hormones and anti-infective drugs—drove per-person spending in the state to $6,335 in 2017 from $4,982 in 2013, according to a report Tuesday from the private New York State Health Foundation and the research nonprofit Health Care Cost Institute. Nationally, per-person spending was $5,641 in 2017, up from $4,834 in 2013. The annual average rate of growth in per-person spending from 2013 to 2017 was 6.2% in New York, compared with 3.9% nationally.” Wall Street Journal’s Melanie Grayce West

“GOV. ANDREW CUOMO SIGNED TWO MORE GUN SAFETY measures into law Tuesday, one banning the manufacture and sale of 3D-printed guns and the other requiring safe storage of firearms when kids younger than 16 live in a gun owner’s house. It is now a criminal offense to manufacture, sell, transport or possess 3D-printed firearms, nicknamed “ghost guns” because they can pass through a metal detector unnoticed. That bill becomes law effective today. The second requires gun owners to safely store their weapons when children are living in the house. But kids under the age of 16 who are properly licensed or supervised will still be able to hunt or practice at a firing range.” New York Post’s Bernadette Hogan

— Cuomo also signed a bill ensuring that political candidates can use campaign funds to cover child care costs while they run for office.

“BILLIONS OF OPIOD PAIN PILLS FLOODED NEW YORK during a seven-year stretch that ignited the historic drug-addiction epidemic, new records show. While devastating statewide, the deadly wave of prescription painkillers hit some communities hardest across the Finger Lakes, Hudson Valley and Southern Tier, according to U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration data obtained by The Washington Post and analyzed by the USA TODAY Network New York. Broome County, for example, received an average of about 40 pills per person per year, among the top 10 counties statewide from 2006 to 2012. Niagara and Sullivan counties had the highest averages, at about 51 and 50 pills per person, respectively, the data showed.” Gannett’s David Robinson, Chad Arnold and Frank Esposito

#UpstateAmerica: Ithaca would like you to know it is the birthplace of the ice cream sundae.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY: Bain Capital’s Deval Patrick is 63 … Sean Eldridge, founder and president of Stand Up America, is 33 … WNYC’s Yasmeen KhanSam Frizell Elizabeth WurtzelMatt Hutchison, SVP of corp comms at Forbes … Richard Schifter is 96 … Richard C. Blum is 84 … Sherry Lansing is 75 … Leon Black is 68 … Ronald L. Kuby is 63

MAKING MOVES — Jeff Sutton started as the mayor’s chief speechwriter Monday. Sutton was previously the head content writer and director for Organizing for Action in Chicago, a group that grew out of the campaigns of President Barack Obama. He was also a writing consultant for a Michelle Obama initiative called When We All Vote.

— Kimberly Winston, a former senior executive producer at NY1, has joined public strategy firm Mercury. … Courtney Boland has joined MSNBC as a publicist, working on dayside and “11th Hour with Brian Williams.” She was previously an account coordinator on the labor and economic justice practice at BerlinRosen.

PER MORNING MONEY: SUMMER MONEY SEASON — A Wall Streeter who snarks on this fundraiser invite: “Nothing says man of the people like … ‘Please join Governor Steve Bullock for a reception on Nantucket on August 15th or for a reception in East Hampton on August 17th! … Steve’s a progressive who gets things done.'”

SPOTTED at Tech:NYC and IBM’s seventh edition of The Quarterly, a semi-regular gathering for people in media and tech at The Standard East Village: Julie Samuels, Saswato Das, Amanda Cowie, Shira Ovide, Steven Levy, Liz Wessel, Lauretta Charlton, Sara Castellanos, Catherine Stupp, Noreen Malone, Andrew Marantz, Stu Loeser, Michael Dolmatch, David Gallagher, Orly Halpern, Brooke DiPalma and Carly Walsh.

“PUNCTUALITY HAS NEVER BEEN one of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s strong suits — and he proved it yet again here on Tuesday. Hizzoner had been scheduled to appear at a pre-debate event in Detroit with other 2020 Democratic hopefuls, which was hosted by Michigan Rep. Brenda Lawrence, but he didn’t show up. ‘[De Blasio] committed to me. He said he would be late. And now I just heard he wasn’t coming,’ Lawrence told The Post.

“…New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, who was also scheduled to appear, didn’t show up either — but at least gave an excuse, according to Lawrence. ‘Family emergency,’ the lawmaker said of Gillibrand’s reasoning for not attending. De Blasio, however, gave no explanation. ‘It was a bit rude,’ Beessabathuni told The Post.” New York Post’s Marisa Schultz and Chris Perez

— The watchdog group Campaign Legal Center is “very likely” to file a formal complaint with the Federal Election Commission over de Blasio’s questionable campaign accounting.

— Former City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito will be a surrogate for Julian Castro after Wednesday night’s debate.

“REP. CHRIS COLLINS, IN A RARE MEETING WITH REPORTERS since his indictment on insider-trading charges, insisted Tuesday he is in ‘no rush’ to decide on running for re-election, while maintaining his innocence. Collins said he’s still considering whether to run for re-election in 2020. If he does, he said, he would have a ‘properly funded’ campaign. ‘It’s still July of 2019; the primary is not until June, 2020. That’s still 11 months away,’ he said. ‘Let’s just say Chris Jacobs stirred the pot a little early.’ … He called ‘laughable’ the suggestion he would run for re-election as a bargaining chip with federal prosecutors.” Buffalo News’ T.J. Pignataro and Bob McCarthy

— Beth Parlato, an attorney and occasional Fox News commentator, announced her candidacy for the Republcian nomination for Collins’ seat.

“THE VIDEOS THAT EMERGED from an Upper East Side event in October showed a disturbing scene: about a dozen men connected to a far-right group called the Proud Boys surrounding and striking a smaller group of protesters, believed to be self-described anti-fascists. Ten members and associates of the Proud Boys, which the Southern Poverty Law Center has called a ‘hate group,’ were arrested as a result of the altercation. And this week, two are going to trial in what appears to be the first time members of the group, which have clashed with left-wing opponents in other parts of the country, will appear before a jury to face charges stemming from an attack.

“Jurors, however, are unlikely to hear from any of those who were beaten. The four victims have not cooperated with the authorities, who do not even know their names. They are identified in an indictment only as Shaved Head, Ponytail, Khaki and Spiky Belt.” New York Times’ Colin Moynihan

“A GROUP OF UNDOCUMENTED immigrants is calling on the state attorney general to investigate their claims that a Bronx man illegally took their money in exchange for promising them visas. The immigrants claim they were victimized by Edwin Rivera, who has a history of legal problems and was arrested three years ago for falsely claiming to be an immigration lawyer. This time, they claim Rivera approached them in local churches and said they could qualify for religious visas. ‘The pastor brought in this guy who sold himself as an expert on immigration law, expert on religious visas,’ said attorney Anibal Romero, who is now representing 20 of the immigrants. But he said none of them actually qualified for this type of visa.” WNYC’s Beth Fertig

LAWYERS FOR President Donald Trump, House Democrats and New York state told a federal judge today that they have failed to resolve a dispute over the president’s state tax returns. “Notwithstanding their best efforts, the parties are unable to reach agreement,” the three sides said in a joint court filing. They had been ordered by District Judge Carl Nichols on Monday to figure out among themselves how to proceed in the case, in which Trump is demanding a temporary restraining order to prevent Democrats from taking advantage of a newly passed New York law designed to give them access to the president’s state tax filings. POLITICO’s Brian Faler

— “A Manhattan federal judge Tuesday ruled that President Donald Trump and members of his campaign could not be held liable for Russian hacking of the Democratic National Committee computers ahead of the 2016 presidential election.” New York Law Journal’s Tom McParland

“NEW YORK REP. Eliot Engel, who chairs the powerful House Foreign Affairs Committee, called on Tuesday for a formal impeachment inquiry into President Trump, becoming one of the highest-ranking members of Congress to do so. Engel, whose committee is one of six House panels probing Trump and his administration for wrongdoing, said in a statement that former special counsel Robert Mueller’s testimony last week made him jump on board the impeachment train.” New York Daily News’ Chris Sommerfeldt

— Attorney General Tish James is opening an investigation into a data security breach at Capital One.

— A stretch of the F and G subway lines is falling apart three years after the MTA spent $275 million and closed a station to renovate it.

— Two cyclists were beaten and robbed in separate incidents in the same area of Hell’s Kitchen.

— A construction worker was killed when a wall collapsed at a Queens building site.

— Police rescued a mother duck and her nine babies who fell through a storm grate while crossing the street in Park Slope.

— Comptroller Tom DiNapoli endorsed Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone’s reelection bid.

— The effort to recapture 75 escaped buffalo in upstate New York faces a new challenge: The herd is believed to have broken into three or four groups, making them harder to find.

Elected officials are calling for more funding for community-based anti-violence programs after 12 people were shot at a festival in Brownsville.

— Brownsville residents are questioning why Mayor de Blasio will not call the shooting of 12 people there a “mass shooting.”

— State Sen. Patrick Gallivan wants Cuomo to investigate the state parole board.

— “An NYPD officer is suing the city and several fellow cops, claiming she was the target of repeated sexual harassment and even an attempted sex assault but that higher-ups and her union refuse to step in.”

— A cat and her nine kittens found in a Bronx storm drain have moved in with a foster family.

— Wegmans has unveiled new shopping carts to better support children with special needs.

— An exhibit dedicated to Stanley Kubrick’s landmark film “2001: A Space Odyssey” is coming to the Museum of the Moving Image next year.

— Siena College President Edward Coughlin died Tuesday following complications from a recent heart surgery.

CITY-SUBSIDIZED housing, a cornerstone of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s tenure, dropped over the last fiscal year — a change owed to a one-time tax break the city offered to preserve a large housing complex a year earlier. The city funded 25,299 homes for rent-restricted residents in fiscal year 2019, which ended June 30, down from 32,251 the year before, according to figures City Hall released Tuesday. POLITICO’s Sally Goldenberg

“A FORMER PART-TIME employee at Glenwood Management claims she was denied a full-time position and then fired from the company because she rejected her boss’ sexual advances. Karla Guzman Pinales filed a lawsuit against Glenwood and her former supervisor, Juan Montero, alleging that she was eventually fired after reporting instances of sexual harassment and after refusing Montero’s advances.” Real Deal’s Kathryn Brenzel

Mets 5, White Sox 2: If this is it for Noah Syndergaard as a Met, he went out in a blaze of glory, pitching into the eighth inning, striking out 11, and throwing pitches like this all night. (Worth reiterating here that trading him won’t look foolish in hindsight, it’ll look foolish in real time.) Edwin Diaz, the pitcher the same front office considering a deal for Syndergaard gave up most of its top young talent for last winter, then blew the save. Fortunately, Jeff McNeil, who the current front office also considered including in the Edwin Diaz trade, hit a two-run homer to break the tie in the 11th.

Diamondbacks 4, Yankees 2: Taylor Clarke, Arizona pitcher whose wife is also named Taylor, outpitched J.A. Happ, who is part of a New York rotation badly in need of reinforcements.

The day ahead: The MLB trade deadline arrives. The Yankees host the Diamondbacks in a getaway day matinee. The Mets are still in Chicago to face the White Sox.





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