NEW YORK (AP) — Making his first public appearance of the week on Tuesday afternoon, Mayor Bill de Blasio answered some of the questions regarding the employment status of emergency management commissioner Joe Esposito:
- Yes, Deputy Mayor Laura Anglin had been told to fire him Friday.
- No, it did not have anything to do with the city's response to last month's snowstorm; the decision was made weeks ago, the mayor said.
- And yes, the meeting didn't go well.
De Blasio: That conversation, obviously, now we understand, involved a certain amount of miscommunication and misunderstanding. It was a conversation that did not go the way it was planned.
De Blasio: Somehow, people really missed each other in a way I haven't seen previously.
De Blasio: Something went wrong in that conversation.
The mayor said it wasn't until Monday he realized the level of misunderstanding. He spent much of the day Monday in Gracie Mansion, meeting with Esposito twice, finally reaching an understanding that Esposito would stay on until de Blasio finds his replacement, and might take a different job in the administration.
(Mayor Bill de Blasio said Tuesday that Joe Esposito, seen here, will transition out of his commissioner role at the city's Office of Emergency Management in favor of a modernized emergency management agency).
"In retrospect, understanding and appreciating how long Joe has served this city, I think I should have said, 'Wait a minute, even though it was perfectly appropriate for a deputy mayor to have the conversation, it would have been better for me to have it up front,'" de Blasio admitted.
While he praised Esposito's years of service both in his current role and during a 45-year career in the NYPD, de Blasio said it was time for new leadership and an effort to modernize the emergency management agency, pointing to the challenges of climate change and the changing threat of terrorism.
"For where we want to go going forward, I was certain that we needed to go in a new direction," the mayor said. "You can respect someone's skills and abilities but also have the feeling that someone else is a better choice for the job going forward."
De Blasio said media reports that Esposito had tried unsuccessfully to reach him all weekend weren't true. He said there was no record of a phone call, and that Esposito never bought it up when they met on Monday.
De Blasio wouldn't answer when asked if he apologized to Esposito over the confusion, saying only that he "had a good conversation with him."
Esposito told WNYC Radio on Tuesday night that de Blasio cleared up the confusion and that he respected the mayor's decision.
"I serve at his discretion. If he decides it's time for me to go, it's time for me to go," Esposito said. "He gave me the job, I thank him for giving me the job, he can take it away just as fast as he gives it."
The mayor said the city will conduct a national search for a new commissioner capable of simultaneously handling multiple crises and emerging threats, such as the effects of climate change and new ways that terrorists could look to strike the city. He said he expected the transition to take months.
De Blasio said that Esposito's ouster had nothing to do with a November 15 snowstorm that crippled the city — a link made in articles that broke the news on Monday.
"I want to tell you straightforward that is a falsehood. That's inaccurate," de Blasio said. "I don't blame you for making assumptions. It's just not true. The decision was made well in advance of that."
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