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Saturday, November 17, 2018

NYC Mayor de Blasio Fires Department of Investigation Commissioner Mark Peters, And All Hell Breaks Loose

Mark Peters and Bill de Blasio
photo: Natan Dvir; Brigitte Stelzer
The firing of Department of Investigations Commissioner sure looks like the exact same scenario as when Governor Andrew Cuomo disbanded the Moreland Commission, set up to look at corruption. The Governor stopped The Moreland Commission and disbanded the group after they subpoenaed Cuomo's personnel and records.
Wikipedia posts what happened next:

After the commission was disbanded, the governor and the commission were criticized by government watchdogs, New York prosecutors and the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New YorkPreet Bharara. Bharara opened an investigation into the commission, the possible interference by the governor's office, and into the targets of the commission's own incomplete investigations. He also instructed legislators and the governor's office to retain any documents related to the commission.[6][9] In 2015, investigations by Bharara's office resulted in the arrest and conviction of Assembly speaker Silver and Senate majority leader Skelos. Then in January 2016 the U.S. Attorney announced the end of his investigation into the closing of the commission.[10]
In March 2017, President Donald Trump fired Bharara in the midst of an investigation concerning Trump appointees. Bharara later tweeted: "By the way, I know what the Moreland Commission must have felt like."[11]

De Blasio Fires Investigations Chief, Citing Abuse of Power

Mayor Bill de Blasio on Friday took the extraordinary step of firing his embattled investigations commissioner, Mark G. Peters, the culmination of a fierce rivalry between the two powerful men.

It was a rare and consequential action by a mayor to remove an investigations commissioner: The position is understood to come with a large degree of independence that allows impartial scrutiny of all areas of government, including the executive branch.

But the relationship between Mr. Peters and the mayor had severely deteriorated over time, and the last straw was an independent investigator’s report that found that Mr. Peters had abused his power and mistreated underlings, and said that he was “cavalier with the truth.”

Mr. Peters had produced numerous investigative reports that exposed significant failings in city agencies that were highly embarrassing to Mr. de Blasio, including lapses in performing lead paint inspections at the New York City Housing Authority, and the lifting of deed restrictions on a Lower East Side nursing home that permitted its sale to a developer of luxury condominiums.

Mr. de Blasio on Friday said those investigations did not influence his decision.

“D.O.I. is meant to be critical of city agencies,” Mr. de Blasio said at a news conference, before delineating the “mistakes and abuses of power” detailed in the independent report on Mr. Peters. “The D.O.I. commissioner is supposed to be the most pristine of all.”

Mr. de Blasio said that he was not influenced by any continuing investigations. Mr. Peters had begun an investigation into whether City Hall sought to influence a review of the educational quality at some Jewish religious schools.

He also said, however, that he regretted hiring Mr. Peters in the first place.

Mr. Peters said in a brief statement that he would issue a fuller written response to his firing in coming days. He said that under his direction the department “exposed corruption and misconduct and forced serious systematic reforms in multiple agencies.”

He wrote that he did not want his staff to take the firing as a defeat, “but rather as proof that the excellent work you do makes a difference — indeed, so much of a difference that “it appears the mayor felt compelled to act.”

The City Charter says the mayor has the power to remove the investigation commissioner, as long as he gives an accounting of his reasons for the firing and allows the commissioner “an opportunity of making a public explanation.”

It said Mr. Peters’s removal would take effect after three business days, a period ending Wednesday that is apparently intended to allow time for Mr. Peters to make the public explanation mentioned in the City Charter.

Mr. Peters fell far and hard. A longtime friend of the mayor, he served as the treasurer for Mr. de Blasio’s 2013 mayoral campaign. When Mr. de Blasio appointed him as the commissioner of the Department of Investigation, the choice was greeted with skepticism, with critics asking whether someone so close to the mayor would be independent enough to pursue investigations into the administration.

Mr. de Blasio often took issue with the findings and defended agency heads who came under Mr. Peters’s scrutiny.

But Mr. Peters finally overreached: Earlier this year, he staged a takeover of an independent office that conducts investigations of the school system. When the head of the office, Anastasia C. Coleman, resisted the takeover, Mr. Peters fired her.

She then filed a whistle-blower complaint, which led to the appointment of an independent investigator: James G. McGovern, a former federal prosecutor.

Mr. de Blasio had considered firing Mr. Peters at the time but decided against it; city officials seemed leery of the possible backlash over firing an investigator who had taken a critical look at the mayor’s governance.

The McGovern report, which was completed in early October, finally gave the mayor the impetus and evidence to force Mr. Peters out.

The City Council was a strong ally of Mr. Peters in his clashes with the mayor’s office, especially under the current Council speaker, Corey Johnson. But the whistle-blower report undermined that support, including the allegations that Mr. Peters had misled the Council.

Mr. Johnson provided a statement on Friday that credited Mr. Peters for exposing “significant issues” at the housing authority and in other agencies, but said “the McGovern report raised questions about his ability to continue in his role.”

But the chairman of the Council’s committee on oversight and investigations, Ritchie Torres, praised Mr. Peters for his independence, adding that he “strongly disagreed” with the firing.

Mr. de Blasio, in a statement released after the dismissal, thanked Mr. Peters for his service but saved his praise for Ms. Garnett.

“Margaret has spent decades protecting the public’s interest, prosecuting criminals both inside and outside of government,” he said.


De Blasio's Peters principle: When the mayor moved to boot his top watchdog
NY Daily News, September 21, 2018

Never has a mayor of New York dared fire the anti-corruption watchdog who guards City Hall.

With seven pages drafted by his lawyers earlier this year to deliver the justifications the law says he must, Mayor de Blasio this spring came to the brink of firing Mark Peters as commissioner of the Department of Investigation — and still has the papers on file.

As if he could ever have gotten away with canning the top cop on the beat exposing his administration’s grievous breakdowns and mandating reforms.

Lead paint poisoning children at NYCHA. Swiss cheese child abuse investigations that left other kids dead. Smuggling into city jails, and top Correction brass’ rampant use of city vehicles for personal trips. The sheer incompetence behind the Rivington House nursing home debacle.

Compare that record to the reasons the drafters of the mayor’s memo give to justify firing Peters.

Peters moved to fold into his office the formerly independent Special Commissioner of Investigation for the Department of Education; no one disputes that. De Blasio alleges, and he’s technically likely right, that Peters had no authority to make that move — and badly botched his job offer to the woman in charge, then fired her after she complained about a reorganization.

And that, separately, Peters threw a snit about office space for his staff, supposedly invoking that he had “people with guns in the room” with the power to make arrests. And used similarly heated language when throwing his weight around with then-budget director Dean Fuleihan.

That’s it? That’s it.

That de Blasio keeps the means close at hand to eject his onetime friend and campaign treasurer lays bare two ugly possibilities about his motives.

The mayor is either ready to rid himself of the source of probes that are forcing correction of calamitous mistakes by his administration — or wildly overreactive to Peters’ admittedly brash, at times obnoxious leadership style.

Two years into de Blasio’s first term, the Daily News called for Peters’ resignation on the view — well justified by early investigations that failed to name names or specify sufficient remedial actions — that his close personal relationship with de Blasio precluded the intensive probes this mayor merited.

Peters has since well proven his independence and zeal. The mayor in his target sights has evidently noticed.

Betsy Combier
Editor, NYC Rubber Room Reporter
Editor, New York Court Corruption
Editor, National Public Voice
Editor, NYC Public Voice

One of the many scandals that Bill de Blasio will be "famous" for:

De Blasio: Miscommunication over lead paint exposure ‘has been addressed’

Mayor Bill de Blasio claimed Monday night that any previous miscommunication between the city’s Housing Authority and Health Department over children’s exposure to lead paint in public housing is no longer an issue.
“The problem you raised is unacceptable,” de Blasio told NY1. “It is and has been addressed.”
He was responding to questions about a Department of Investigation probe into how his administration has handled positive lead tests of kids living in public housing.
Hizzoner admitted there was a “gap” between how information was previously gathered by the Health Department and then communicated with the New York City Housing Authority. However, he claimed the problem dated back to the administration of former Mayor Michael Bloomberg — and that he has fixed it.
“The Health Department and NYCHA are on the same page …,” de Blasio said. “We have now caught up. Regular inspections, regular remediation … and that will continue from this point on.”
DOI has requested records from the Health Department about the tests, which showed that as many as 820 kids over five years were exposed to levels of lead that the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers dangerous.
The DOI investigation is one of at least two probes into the Health Department’s actions.
City Comptroller Scott Stringer previously announced this month that his office was reviewing the health agency.

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