NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — We can add a spying scandal to the investigation into the city’s Department of Correction, as a top deputy was removed from his job amidst an investigation of the Correction Commissioner for allegedly misusing city vehicles.
CBS2 Political Reporter Marcia Kramer was demanding answers at City Hall Monday.
In reality, Commissioner Joseph Ponte tried to avoid answering questions Monday.
“You outlawed the use of personal cars in Maine,” Kramer pushed. “Why is it not a problem here, a double standard, Commissioner?”
A flying wedge of correction officials, police, and security guards shoved CBS2’s Kramer out of the way to shield Commissioner Pointe from the twin-scandals rocking his agency.
The latest — that Deputy Commissioner of the agency’s Investigation Bureau Gregory Kaczinski spied, engaging in unauthorized surveillance of undercover probes done by the City Department of Investigation.
“They did this multiple times,” DOI Commissioner Mark Peters said. “They did this after they were told to stop. This was deliberate, targeted surveillance of DOI and of DOI investigations. This kind of rogue operation is unacceptable.”
As WCBS 880’s Rich Lamb reports, Peters sent a rocket of a letter to Mayor de Blasio telling him about the spying and demanding Kaczinski be removed.
Kaczinski was removed from his post today, but a spokesman for the mayor said he is still at large at the agency — earning the same $185,000 salary.
While Ponte repeatedly dodged reporters, he couldn’t avoid the City Council and pointed questions from Queens Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley.
“Can you explain why the DOC did not notify the DOI after listening to DOI phone calls?” Crowley asked.
“It’s a long story,” Ponte replied. “The calls had already been reviewed, we didn’t do any additional reviews.”
Not true, says Commissioner Peters — the surveillance started again while the DOI was investigating the misuse of city cars.
“They renewed the surveillance after they learned we were investigating the cars,” Peters said.
Ponte was also grilled about why he drove his own city car out of state, logging 18,500 miles and charging gas and tolls to the city as well.
He echoed what the mayor said, that he had guidance saying it was okay. But as CBS2 first reported as Maine’s corrections commissioner, he approved a policy that banned the use of state owned vehicles.
Ponte refused to name names when pressed for who specifically gave him that guidance, much to the dismay of City Councilman Rory Lancman (D-Queens).
“Maybe you’re not aware of the way this works,” Lancman asserted. “This is the City Council. We ask you questions. You’re under oath. It’s not for you, sir, to decide what serves a purpose or doesn’t serve a purpose. So I’m going to ask you again. What are the identities of the people who provided the guidance the mayor referred to?”
“The staff of the commissioner’s detail, the chief of staff,” Ponte replied. “The people in office at the time I arrived.”
In response to the spying scandal, the agency’s system of telephone monitoring is going to be overhauled, CBS2’s Kramer reports. A spokesman for the mayor’s office said City Hall will work with both agencies to make sure it doesn’t happen again.