12‘Sorry’ city prober

Blaz-tar­get boss must apol­o­gize for fir­ing of­fi­cial

New York Daily News - - NEWS - BY GREG B. SMITH

The city com­mis­sioner who Mayor de Bla­sio kept a se­cret dossier on promised to apol­o­gize Thurs­day af­ter an in­ves­ti­ga­tion found he over­stepped his author­ity in an agency power play gone wrong.

Depart­ment of Investigations Com­mis­sioner Mark Peters agreed to pen a highly un­usual mea culpa af­ter the in­de­pen­dent ex­am­i­na­tion de­ter­mined that his takeover of the schools spe­cial com­mis­sioner of investigations ex­ceeded his le­gal author­ity.

The find­ings by lawyer James McGovern, who was brought in to con­duct the in­quiry, rec­om­mended that Peters write a let­ter to Anas­ta­sia Cole­man, the in­terim com­mis­sioner he ousted dur­ing the hos­tile takeover “for the dis­cour­te­ous and un­pro­fes­sional man­ner in which he con­ducted him­self dur­ing the Feb. 27, 2018, meet­ing.”

Long­stand­ing Spe­cial Investigations Com­mis­sioner Richard Con­don re­tired in Oc­to­ber 2017, and Cole­man was made in­terim com­mis­sioner. Soon af­ter, Peters (photo) moved to con­sol­i­date her of­fice into the Depart­ment of In­ves­ti­ga­tion, and Cole­man ob­jected. He con­fronted her with an ul­ti­ma­tum of ac­cept­ing the new terms or be­ing fired dur­ing the Fe­bru­ary meet­ing.

She re­fused and was canned. Then she filed a whistle­blower com­plaint.

At the time, de Bla­sio’s top lawyer, Cor­po­ra­tion Coun­sel Zachary Carter, as­sem­bled a dossier on Peters that could be used to jus­tify the mayor ax­ing the In­ves­ti­ga­tion Depart­ment com­mis­sioner. The doc­u­ment in­cluded the Cole­man in­ci­dent and added sev­eral other ac­cu­sa­tions of Peters mak­ing abu­sive threats to get what he wanted.

The mayor ul­ti­mately de­cided not to go for­ward with his plans to fire Peters. On Thurs­day, de Bla­sio press sec­re­tary Eric Phillips couldn’t im­me­di­ately say what the mayor planned to do in re­sponse to McGovern’s find­ings, stat­ing, “We don’t yet have ac­cess to the de­tails. We’ll de­cline com­ment be­yond that.”

Peters re­vealed Thurs­day that the in­de­pen­dent probe con­cluded that Cole­man and a sub­or­di­nate, Daniel Sch­la­chet, must be re­in­stated and given back pay.

McGovern was brought in last April be­cause the whistle­blower com­plaint tar­geted Peters. He turned over his find­ings to Peters Wed­nes­day, but as of Thurs­day Peters had not yet drafted the let­ter of apol­ogy, though agency of­fi­cials said Peters in­tends to send the “I’m sorry” let­ter to Cole­man soon. McGovern rec­om­mended the note be placed in both Peters’ and Cole­man’s per­son­nel files.

On Thurs­day, the Daily News re­quested a copy of McGovern’s find­ings, which were not re­leased with Peters’ state­ment. In­ves­ti­ga­tion Depart­ment of­fi­cials said they were re­view­ing that re­quest.

In his state­ment, Peters said, “Ac­cept­ing over­sight, even when you are the sub­ject of that over­sight, is crit­i­cal for good gov­ern­ment. Now that this process is com­plete, I look for­ward to con­tin­u­ing the sys­temic and im­por­tant over­sight work of DOI, the city’s in­spec­tor gen­eral.”

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