De Blasio defends handling of sexual harassment claims against top aide

Mayor de Blasio on Friday doubled down in defense of his administration’s hush-hush handling of confirmed sexual harassment complaints against a top aide, which saw the harasser move to another gig at a communication firm with ties to City Hall.

Lawyers for the city confirmed the allegations against former senior mayoral advisor Kevin O’Brien in February 2018 and forced him to resign, but without any public notice.

Two months later, O’Brien got a gig at Hilltop Public Solutions — an outfit that worked on de Blasio’s 2013 campaign and later his political non-profit, the Campaign for One New York.

The mayor told WNYC radio the matter was handled appropriately — including the lack of private notice to Hilltop — because protecting the complainants’ confidentiality had been paramount.

“It is a tough choice because everyone would have the impulse to immediately say out loud, ‘This is what happened. Look what this person did! Never hire them again.’ But there’s a real problem
when you do that for the person who raised the complaint. And our number one responsibility is to the victim,” de Blasio said. “Any proactive outreach ran the risk of breaking the confidentiality.”

The mayor also said he had no idea where O’Brien had landed after getting booted, despite his work at the top levels of City Hall for more than two years.

“I for one didn’t even know what happened to this individual. I didn’t know if he ever got a job or when or where. I only found out very recently,” the mayor said.

O’Brien was let go this week by Hilltop Public Solutions, officials at the firm said Thursday.

On another matter, the mayor told a caller to WNYC radio that he was working on a solution to piling garbage in Harlem in and around St. Nicholas Park.

The caller, identified as Christina, complained that the city’s Sanitation Department had removed hundreds of public trash cans because homeowners and contractors had been using them to dispose of residential debris.

“The rat population has exploded,” she told the mayor. “I have been going through that park all my life… it is an outrage the amount of trash and litter that is there.”

De Blasio said he was already familiar with the situation, and that he had instructed top administration officials to find a solution.

“They’ve gotta come up with a third way because having the public trash cans filled with people’s residential garbage doesn’t help us and not having the public trash cans doesn’t help us,” he said. “There’s gotta be something else done, and quickly.”

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