NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — There’s a growing schism in New York’s City Council over whether to hold public hearings on dramatic allegations from recently ousted Department of Investigation Commissioner Mark Peters that City Hall, and Mayor Bill de Blasio himself, tried to block the publication of damning reports.
Council Speaker Corey Johnson was on the municipal battlefield on Tuesday, taking the Board of Elections to task about the widespread chaos in last week’s election day.
“The first step to fixing a problem is admitting you have a problem,” Johnson said to Michael Ryan.
There was, however, another political hot potato that the speaker was steering clear of — the request by the outgoing DOI commissioner to testify before the city council about the mayor’s decision to fire him. Peters asked to testify publically about the explosive charges aired in a dirty linen letter to Johnson, accusing the mayor of multiple attempts to block publication of damaging reports exposing the dark underbelly of the administration.
Web Extra: Read Mark Peters’ response to firing (.pdf)
Web Extra: De Blasio Responds To Peters’ Letter
“I’m not sure going back and figuring out every single conversation Commissioner Peters had… is really a way to move forward,” Johnson said. “I find it very suspicious that Commissioner Peters is raising this right after he was terminated.”
But is Johnson concerned it could look like he’s covering up for de Blasio?
“No, because the investigation came out,” the council speaker said. “He said he released everything he had.”
A number of city council members disagree with the speaker.
“My personal feeling is the more daylight the better on this situation because of how serious the allegations are,” Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-26th) said. “We can’t have anyone bullied or pressured or threatened. I don’t know if it took place, I wasn’t on the phone, but the allegation is serious enough we should clearly be looking into it.”
Susan Lerner of Common Cause says she wants to be sure that pending investigations, one of which involves allegations of the mayor’s interference in Yeshiva education, are carried out.
“The independence of the office going forward is paramount,” she said.
Through a spokesperson, Peters said he would have no comment on the issue. The City Council will soon have hearings on de Blasio’s new DOI appointee, Margaret Garnett. Johnson says he will demand assurances from her that she will pursue all the ongoing cases in the office, including those concerning Yeshivas.