NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A new discovery about the city’s correction commissioner using a city car for personal trips out of state has the officers’ union saying ‘double standards’ and has raised questions about the mayor’s defense of the commissioner.
It was a simple question about Corrections Commissioner Joseph Ponte, and a scathing Department of Investigation report showing he drove his city car out of state, logging 18,500 miles — charging gas and tolls to the city as well.
“You have to live under a rock not to know it’s not proper to take a city car and use it for personal use, no matter what your guidance is, something should say to you, it’s not the thing to do,” CBS2 Political Reporter Marcia Kramer asked Mayor Bill de Blasio.
“The bottom line is, he’s not from New York City. He’s not used to the New York City government, he’s used to other jurisdictions, each jurisdiction has a different approach,” de Blasio said.
Maybe not Mr. Mayor.
CBS2’s Kramer did some digging, and found out that prior to coming to the city, Ponte ran the Department of Corrections in Maine where he personally approved the policy on the use of state-owned vehicles.
“Off duty use of state-owned vehicles is prohibited,” the policy said.
“Under no circumstances are state-owned gas credit cards and electronic toll devices to be used for personal use,” it continued.
A different jurisdiction, but the same approach as New York City.
“Double standards, that says double standards,” Elias Husamudeen, President of the Correction Officer’s Benevolent Association, said.
Husamudeen said Ponte should be fired. The mayor’s insistence that Ponte is terrific at his job is just not true.
“This is a mayor who don’t want to hold his commissioners accountable,” Husamudeen said, “The mayor chooses to stick his head in the sand, and say, ‘hey, nothing wrong.”
Friday was not the mayor’s day to answer questions, so CBS2’s Kramer posited the question to his press secretary.
“Deferring to DOC. Thanks,” press secretary Eric Phillips said.
DOC would not directly comment about Ponte’s policy in Maine.
On his radio show the mayor continued to insist Ponte has been a splendid commissioner even though violence on Rikers Island has apparently spiked.
“That’s a hell of a lot more important than whether he accidentally used his car the wrong way,” de Blasio said on WNYC radio.
DOI said that during the 90 days Ponte was out of the city last year, there were many serious incidents including 27 inmate stabbings or slashings, and a prisoner escape.
The commissioner told DOI that since he was a few hours away it wasn’t practical to respond personally.
He let his staff on Rikers handle the incidents.
A DOI spokesperson said Ponte, “was aware of New York City’s rules regarding take home vehicles.”