DOI Accuses Senior Rikers Officials of Spying on Investigators

In another great piece from Michael Schwirtz and William Rashbaum of The New York Times, it was revealed today that Commissioner Joseph Ponte's top deputy at the Department of Correction - who lacked appropriate experience when hired and had been fined for improper use of department assets - was caught ordering DOI officials spied-upon when they contacted cooperating inmate informants inside the jail facility. If these allegations prove true, it shows that there is no limit to the degree of corruption inside this troubled agency.

New York City’s Department of Investigation has picked apart practically every facet of the troubled Rikers Island jail complex in recent years, including abuses committed by guards and inmates and the misuse of official cars by the commissioner and his staff.

Now it is taking aim at the very person who is supposed to prevent wrongdoing at the jail from within — the head of the Correction Department’s Investigation Division.

The Department of Investigation believes the jail official, Gregory Kuczinski, has orchestrated a spying campaign against it and has called for his removal. On Monday morning, Mr. Kuczinsky was removed from his position and placed on modified duty.

In a long letter to Mayor Bill de Blasio, the Department of Investigation said Mr. Kuczinski and his subordinates violated city rules and regulations by repeatedly listening in on telephone calls between an investigator with the agency and inmates who were serving as informants, several people with knowledge of the letter said.

In an interview late on Sunday, the Correction Department commissioner, Joseph Ponte, insisted that “there was no improper eavesdropping.” As soon as Correction Department investigators determined that they had been listening in on a conversation involving a Department of Investigation staff member, he said, they stopped the surveillance.

“Clearly there was no intent to interfere with D.O.I. and anything they were doing,” he said.

Mr. Kuczinski, in a separate phone interview on Sunday, denied wrongdoing and called the reaction of officials at the investigation agency “ridiculous,” saying: “Are they trying to cover something up? I don’t know.”

The letter from the head of the department, Mark G. Peters, was sent to Mayor de Blasio on Wednesday, according to the people. They spoke on the condition of anonymity because the contents of the letter were confidential.

The letter said that Mr. Ponte had learned of the surveillance in February, after another official had shut it down, the people said. But Mr. Ponte did not report the surveillance to the investigation agency, nor did he take any action against Mr. Kuczinski, whom he had promoted into his current job.

The accusation came just a week after the Department of Investigation issued a report sharply rebuking Mr. Ponte, Mr. Kuczinski and two other top correction officials for misusing their city cars. It was the latest in a series of embarrassing revelations of deep systemic problems in the city jails uncovered by the agency.

Read the full story here.