Queens DA Melinda Katz uses security detail as ‘personal car service’
When it absolutely, positively has to get there … trust your bodyguards!
Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz used members of her taxpayer-funded security detail to help her move to her new million-dollar digs — potentially running afoul of ethics rules, The Post has learned.
The borough’s top prosecutor was spotted wearing her gold DA’s badge on her hip last week as she carried four boxes of belongings to a black Ford Expedition parked outside the Forest Hills house where she’s been temporarily living since selling her former childhood home for $1.05 million in February.
She then climbed into the official vehicle and was driven about 1.2 miles by a pair of plainclothes NYPD cops to her new three-bedroom, 2-1/2 bathroom Colonial-style house, which city records show she bought late last month for $1.1 million.
The trip was one of four that The Post saw Katz, 56, and her detail make between her old and new homes Tuesday morning. Later in the day, Katz took part in an online Pride event sponsored by her office and appeared to be sitting behind the driver’s seat in the SUV, which had a row of clothes hanging from a rack visible in the rear.
On Friday morning, The Post also saw members of Katz’s security detail carry various items to the SUV from one of the homes while picking up her and her two kids. One cop made three back-and-forth trips, and the other made two. They carried stuff in their hands and in large black plastic bags.
Sources familiar with Katz’s routine told The Post that members of her security detail also had been hauling flat-screen TVs, groceries and dry cleaning around for her, as well as loading her sons’ bicycles and sports gear into an official SUV, driving the family away and returning several hours later.
Katz also regularly had her security detail show up at her home on weekday mornings in time for her to accompany her kids as the cops drove them to school, after which she returned home, dressed for work and left around 10 a.m., sources said.
“She uses the detectives as her personal car service,” one source said.
The moves appear to run afoul of provisions in city law that bar elected officials and other public servants from using their positions “to obtain any financial gain, privilege, or other private or personal advantage” and “from using City resources for any personal, non-City purpose.”
Those prohibitions were cited in a 2016 agreement between the city Conflicts of Interest Board and the late Brooklyn DA Ken Thompson, who agreed to pay a $15,000 fine to settle allegations that he illegally had his security detail buy him meals for which they were later reimbursed by the DA’s Office.
Blair Horner of the New York Public Interest Research Group, which advocates for government accountability, said Katz “deserves protection” because “we live in a crazy world.”
“But any elected official who needs to have their laundry picked up or their belongings moved should hire a private company to do it,” he said.
“There are a lot of elected officials who have gotten into trouble for using public resources for private purposes. Public servants are just that.”
Katz, a Democrat whose annual salary is $212,800, is a protégé of disgraced former state Comptroller Alan Hevesi, having babysat his kids and volunteered on his successful 1993 campaign for city comptroller.
In return, Hevesi supported Katz’s third-party campaign to replace him in the state Assembly against the local Democratic district leader, who she defeated in a special election in 1994.
During his 2006 reelection campaign for state comptroller, Hevesi was accused by his Republican challenger of using a member of his security detail as his wife’s chauffeur for the previous three years.
Hevesi acknowledged the abuse and immediately paid $83,000 in restitution but was later ordered to cough up another $90,000, then forced to resign and serve 20 months in prison for a $1 million pay-to-play corruption scam with a state pension-fund investor.
One source said Hevesi’s downfall had apparently affected the extent to which Katz relies on her security detail.
“She learned her lesson — she makes sure she is always in the car with her kids,” said the source said.
A spokesperson for the DA’s office said Katz’s NYPD detail was assigned “for protection, as has historically been the case.”
“As Chief Law Enforcement Officer of the borough, the DA’s job is 24/7,” the statement said. “Members of the detail are physically with the DA for her protection while on a schedule similar to any other working parent – they accompany her whether she hosts work meetings, attends community events, or tends to the needs of her family.”
Additional reporting by Kevin Sheehan and Nolan Hicks