In what might be the first lawsuit of its kind, city Controller John Liu plans to sue the city for denying his failed mayoral campaign millions of dollars in public funding, the Daily News has learned.
Liu quietly filed a notice of claim on Nov. 1, seeking unspecified money damages for “deprivation of civil rights, mental and emotional harm, loss of dignity, loss of earnings and professional reputation.”
Richard Emery, a well-known attorney who was a big fund-raiser for Mayor-elect de Blasio, is representing Liu in his quest to seek damages from the city’s Campaign Finance Board.
Liu filed the claim with his own office, which is what people who intend to sue the city must do. Because of the potential for conflict, Liu has recused himself “from all matters concerning it,” his office said in a prepared statement Friday.
The legal action stems from the Campaign Finance Board’s controversial decision on Aug. 5 to deny Liu’s campaign any public funding because of what it called “pervasive” fund-raising violations.
The decision cost his struggling campaign as much as $ 3.5 million in much-needed cash, dealing it a crippling blow. Liu would go on to finish fourth in the Sept. 10 Democratic primary.
In taking the unprecedented action, the board cited the conviction of two Liu associates in an illegal fund-raising scheme and a board inquiry into Liu’s donors.
Liu was never charged and no evidence surfaced that linked him directly to the scheme.
At the time, his campaign lawyer, Martin Connor, said the board’s denial of public funding amounted to “the death penalty for a minor transgression.”
Emery did not return calls seeking comment. Reached Friday, Connor said, “I’m not going to talk about that.”
The notice of claim alleges that the board “specifically targeted” Liu and came to a “substantially unreasonable and incorrect decision reached through an unfair and opaque process.”
Liu’s campaign, the Friends of John Liu, filed an identical claim demanding the same damages. That claim was signed by Shiang Liu, an employee of the controller’s office who has also worked on the campaign. A spokesman said Shiang Liu is not related to the controller.