Questions Arise About Correction Commissioner’s Testimony About Out-Of-State Car Use

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The embattled commissioner of the New York City Department of Correction is caught in a yet another scandal – this time facing accusations of lying to the City Council, which is a crime.

CBS2 Political Reporter Marcia Kramer was again demanding answers Tuesday about the misuse of city cars by Commissioner Joseph Ponte.

A scathing Department of Investigation report showed that Ponte he drove his city car out of state, logging 18,500 miles — charging gas and tolls to the city as well.

Kramer: “Commissioner Ponte, did you lie under oath at the City Council when you said that (former Correction Department First Deputy Commissioner) Mark Cranston and others told you you could take your car out of town when they say they didn’t?”

Ponte: “I’m not going to get into who said what to who.”

Ponte was sworn in before he testified before the City Council about taking his car out of state. And yet the people whose names he reluctantly offered up as an alibi that was first advanced by Mayor Bill de Blasio that he got bad advice about the permissibility of his actions said they never said any such thing.

City Councilman Rory Lancman (D-24th) had to pry the names out of Ponte, Kramer reported.

Lancman: “You’re under oath.”

Ponte: “The chief of staff; the first deputy commissioner. Mark Cranston was the first deputy commissioner, I believe.”

But Cranston told Kramer off camera that he never told Ponte it was permissible to take his city car out of state.

Cranston then issued a statement saying, “Let me be clear, at no time did I have a conversation with Joe Ponte telling him he was allowed to use any city owned vehicle contrary to existing departmental policy.

Kramer confronted Ponte about the comment.

Ponte: “The people I spoke to most, and who were here before me, were Mark Cranston and Miss Taylor.”

Kramer: “They say they didn’t tell you you could use your car.”

Ponte: “The use of the vehicle and the housing of the vehicle had been standard practice for the commissioners prior to me getting there.”

Kramer: “They say they never told you that.”

Ponte: “They said that. OK, they said that.”

Meanwhile, Ponte may have another problem with Uncle Sam, Kramer reported. Taxes are to be paid on certain perks like the use of a car, which in this case could amount to more than $10,000.

Kramer: “Are you going to refile your tax returns to reflect the amount of money that…?”

Ponte: “One question at a time.”

Kramer: “Are you going to refile your tax returns to reflect the amount of money you should have paid the IRS for the use of the car?”

Ponte: “Does anyone else have a question?”

Kramer: “Mr. Ponte, are you going to refile your tax returns to reflect the value of the use of the car?”

Ponte: “I will fully refund the city and the IRS any monies owed.”

Lancman told Kramer it is a crime to lie under oath to the City Council. But a representative of City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito did not return calls about whether the Council will press charges.

Several mayoral candidates are calling on de Blasio to fire Ponte.

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