A top ranking New York City Department of Correction official and his subordinates allegedly eavesdropped on calls between public corruption investigators and confidential jail informants, even after being warned to stop, according to a report released Monday by the city’s watchdog agency.
Department of Investigation Commissioner Mark G. Peters in a report and letter sent to Mayor Bill de Blasio called for the ouster of Department of Correction Deputy Commissioner Gregory Kuczinski, who according to a probe “engaged in unauthorized surveillance of DOI undercover operations.”
The report alleges Kuczinski “deliberately targeted” Department of Investigation officials for surveillance, amid a probe of the troubled jail department’s leadership, and “continued the surveillance” of the agency’s calls for several months even after receiving written notice to stop.
“Interference, by anyone, with a DOI investigation is a very serious matter that will not be tolerated,” Peters said. “In particular, surveillance of DOI activities in the city’s jails by the very agency DOI is investigating, not only compromises investigations but can potentially put the lives of investigators, correction officers, inmates and others at risk.”
Kuczinski has “been relieved from his investigation and call monitoring responsibilities,” but remains on the city payroll said Department of Correction spokesman Peter Thorne.
De Blasio spokeswoman Natalie Grybauskas, said the Mayor’s office “will work with the Department of Correction and the Department of Investigation to determine what happened and what changes must occur to ensure that it doesn’t happen again.”
Kuczinski’s alleged eavesdropping came as the Department of Investigation looked into possible misuse of city vehicles by more than a dozen correction officials, according to the report.
Last month, the Department of Investigation released the findings of the car-use probe, which found Kuczinski, Department of Correction Commissioner Joseph Ponte, and 18 other officials used their city issued work vehicles for personal trips in violation of city rules.
Ponte used his city issued car to make multiple trips to his former hometown in Maine, according to last month’s report.
Speaking at a city council budget hearing on Monday, Pontetold lawmakers he misunderstood the city’s employee vehicle policy.
“It is my understanding that the need for my protection and security is the same whether I perform an official or personal task,” Ponte told lawmakers. “I now recognize that this same standard does not apply to use of my personally assigned vehicle and I misunderstood the city’s vehicle policy.”