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De Blasio Defends Ethics As Critics Question Why Donors Paid Investigation Settlement Fines

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Mayor Bill de Blasio's ethics and fundraising have been called into question yet again after two donors agreed to pay fines to settle an investigation into lobbying violations.

In the Bloomberg years, Downtown's City Hall restaurant was famous for shutting its doors to paying customers on Christmas Eve so it could treat homeless families to a five-star meal. Lately it's become famous, or rather, infamous for hosting a September 2015 secret meeting.

As CBS2 Political Reporter Marcia Kramer reported, meeting was curiously not on de Blasio's schedule and held in the restaurant's basement. Present were the mayor, lobbyist James Capalino, and nine of Capalino's clients who had donated $100,000 and were there for a meeting of what was described as de Blasio's "kitchen cabinet."

The meeting was front and center on Tuesday because Capolino has agreed to pay a hefty $40,000 fine to settle an investigation by the State Joint Commission on Public Ethics into his actions.

Also forced to pony up was animal rights activist Steve Nislick, he for $10,000 fine. Nislick lobbied de Blasio to ban horse carriages and replace them with electric cars. The ethics commission said Nislick was asked personally by de Blasio for a donation despite a ruling barring the mayor from asking for donations from people with business before the city.

The mayor for his part insisted that everything he did was on the up, that he followed "legal guidance."

"Everything we did was consistent with that guidance," de Blasio said on Tuesday. "Every decision I make in government and my team makes is on the merits."

The mayor insisted he has nothing to hide, and that there's nothing new to add.

A spokesman for Capalino stressed that he paid his fine voluntarily to settle the case.

"I should have been more sensitive to how my support might appear," Capalino said, through the spokesman.

A spokesman for NYCLASS said it made a mistake in failing to file the proper disclosure forms.

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