News & Politics

Fired NYC Watchdog Slams de Blasio in 10-Page Letter, Claims He Tried to Quash Probes

(Photo by Albin Lohr-Jones/Sipa USA)(Sipa via AP Images)

New York City’s Marxist Mayor is being accused of doing what the organized left has been accusing President Donald Trump of wanting to do for two years: Firing a watchdog and trying to block critical reports about his administration.

Mayor de Blasio on Friday announced that he was firing Department of Investigations (DOI) Commissioner Mark Peters, claiming he had abused the powers of his office. Peters, who is still on the job until Wednesday, says he was fired under false pretenses.

The watchdog sent a ten-page letter to City Council Speaker Corey Johnson on Monday, detailing arguments his office had had with de Blasio’s administration.

Peters blasted de Blasio and his staff, saying they “took actions to demonstrate their anger in ways that were clearly designed to be intimidating” whenever he declined to delay or quash reports on his team’s investigations.

In one such case, Peters claimed that de Blasio phoned him personally in early 2017 to beg him not to release a report criticizing the Administration for Children’s Services following the death of a child under agency supervision.

“When I informed the mayor that DOI was obligated to make its findings public, he yelled at me, accused me of trying to bring his administration ‘down’ and then informed me he was ‘going to hang up now before I say something I shouldn’t,'” Peters said.

He accused the de Blasio administration of also trying to quash a report in November 2017 criticizing the New York City Housing Authority for failing to conduct proper lead inspections and trying to conceal it.

Peters’s letter came out as de Blasio faced yet more questions over how the city has dealt with lead paint concerns following a report from The New York Times saying that for at least 20 years, NYCHA challenged almost all findings of lead paint in its apartments and orders from the city’s Health Department to remediate them, and often were able to get that department to back down.

That followed other media reports, like one saying more than 800 children in public housing had been found with elevated lead levels in their bloodstream between 2012 and 2016.

At an event Monday to announce improvements to NYCHA housing through an unrelated program, de Blasio insisted that his administration came in not knowing the scope of the problem and had taken steps to deal with problems around lead paint as officials became aware of them, and that the city no longer challenged remediation orders from the Health Department.

“Once it started to be clear that there was something fundamentally wrong, piece by piece we have tried to address the lead issue,” de Blasio said.

But the lead issue is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the city’s decrepit public housing system.

Last week, a judge rejected a $2 billion deal aimed at settling lawsuits over unhealthy conditions for its residents, saying more can be done in buildings that are “literally falling apart.”

A public hearing in September attracted dozens of residents to complain about rats, roaches, and mold in buildings run by the agency.

The judge said authorities may have to consider public-private housing partnerships or replacing management of NYCHA.

De Blasio pushed back against that idea Monday, saying he thought the structure in place now was the best way to move forward, and that the city would be working with federal officials to try to find a way forward.

De Blasio denied doing anything improper in regard to DOI investigations during the press conference Monday.

“In every instance with the DOI, we respected that the DOI had a job to do,” he said.

When asked whether it was ever appropriate for his office to request that the DOI not release a report, de Blasio insisted that he did nothing wrong.

“To debate what to do about findings is 100 percent appropriate,” the mayor argued, in order “to understand if the findings are accurate, to ask tough questions, to understand what the recommendations are …”

He added that some recommendations are accepted instantly while others are debated. “That’s normal,” he said.

When asked if he denied ever calling Peters to pressure him to refrain from releasing the ACS report, de Blasio denied the allegation.

“That’s just false,” he said. “I’m sure I had conversations with Mr. Peters and I’m sure I had disagreements but that characterization is false.

When asked if he had tried to “deep six” another investigation, de Blasio exclaimed, “False! false!” and attacked the whistleblower.

“Look — unfortunately, this is an individual who did some very inappropriate things,” he said, claiming that there had been an independent investigation which found that he had done inappropriate things.

“Those characterizations are not fair and are not accurate,” he insisted.