NEW YORK (CBS 2) — There are stunning charges that a New York City agency charged with policing small businesses has a secret quota system and devastatingly high fines that threaten some establishments with extinction.
Michael Bloomberg, the mayor known in some circles as “El Bloombito,” is now being called “Ticket Me Elmo” by a bevy of small business owners crushed by the profusion of tickets being handed out by Department of Consumer Affairs inspectors, who told CBS 2 that they have to meet quotes – or else, political reporter Marcia Kramer reported exclusively on Tuesday.
“They want small business [to] go out of business,” said East Flatbush gas station owner Ekam Cattry.
Cattry was in the process of converting from a no-brand station to an Exxon station when Consumer Affairs inspectors struck.
They hit him with a $20,000 fine because the new sign reading “Exxon” had not arrived yet. And while he was appealing that they threatened to take away his cigarette license because he had not paid the first fine.
“They want to collect much money and small man don’t make that much money. That mean people they no pay the money they have to close their business,” Cattry said. “It’s not fair.”
The number of tickets given out by Consumer Affairs has skyrocketed from 10.9 million in 2010 to nearly 24.2 million in 2012.
Inspectors told CBS 2 it’s because the department instituted a secret quota.
An internal Consumer Affairs document obtained by CBS 2 shows employees are prodded about their “productivity levels” to “keep numbers high” to meet a “25 percent threshold.”
Translation? A ticket has to be written on one out of every four inspections.
“When your violations aren’t up to the standards that they want they would say that your productivity is low and then a borough director or supervisor are encouraged to write you up for low productivity,” said retired Consumer Affairs supervisor Moses Layne.
Public Advocate and mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio was incensed.
“This whole system has become rigged and the little guy loses out every time. Let me tell you what, we see coming into our office every day just a typical store owner that’s fined $5,100,” de Blasio said. “It’s one of the worst quota systems we’ve seen.”
Consumer Affairs Commissioner Jonathan Mintz said, “Ticket quotas? There’s no such thing.”
But he did say that department data shows that, historically, one out of every four inspections does generate a violation. If an inspector isn’t giving out that many tickets, “It’s a flag for the manager,” Mintz said. “Does this inspector know what they’re doing? Is this inspector on the take?”
That may be, but all small business owners know is that their tickets and fines have increased exponentially and they can’t afford it.
Public Advocate de Blasio is demanding that the mayor release department records so he can find out what’s really going on.
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