NYC bigs to pay for ‘free rides’

New York Post - - NEWS - By RICH CALDER rcalder@ny­post.com

The new head of the city’s Depart­ment of Cor­rec­tion and eight other agency of­fi­cials have agreed to pay hefty fines for us­ing their of­fi­cial ve­hi­cles for per­sonal trips, it was an­nounced Tues­day.

Cyn­thia Brann, who took over as com­mis­sioner at the trou­bled agency in Oc­to­ber, ad­mit­ted in a set­tle­ment with the Con­flicts of In­ter­est Board that be­tween Jan. 9 and Aug. 13, 2016, she vi­o­lated reg­u­la­tions on 16 sep­a­rate oc­ca­sions by us­ing her agency ve­hi­cle to go shop­ping or to the air­port.

She agreed to pay a $6,000 fine and to sur­ren­der eight days of per­sonal leave val­ued at $5,824, while re­im­burs­ing the city $493.67 for mileage.

Brann, who lives in Queens, took 13 trips to shop­ping malls on Long Is­land, two to JFK Air­port and an­other trip on July 10, 2016, to Gate­way Plaza Mall in Brook­lyn — while she was a deputy com­mis­sioner.

In Oc­to­ber, Mayor de Bla­sio tapped Brann as DOC com­mis­sioner to re­place Joseph Ponte.

At the time, Ponte’s own per­sonal use of city ve­hi­cles had come un­der scru­tiny as part of a sweep­ing Depart­ment of In­ves­ti­ga­tion probe.

In her COIB de­po­si­tion, Brann claimed she mis­used her of­fi­cial car be­cause she “er­ro­neously be­lieved that I was al­lowed to use [it] for per- sonal travel in case a DOC emer­gency re­quired my im­me­di­ate re­sponse and travel to a DOC fa­cil­ity.”

Be­sides Brann, DOC Chief of Staff Jeff Thamkit­tikasem and seven agency war­dens and deputy war­dens agreed to pay fines for mis­us­ing their of­fi­cial ve­hi­cles.

Thamkit­tikasem ad­mit­ted mak­ing 14 per­sonal trips in an of­fi­cial ve­hi­cle last year, in­clud­ing 11 to air­ports in New York City and Ne­wark. The re­main­ing three were for trips to Wash­ing­ton, DC, Vir­ginia and Suf­folk County.

He agreed to re­im­burse $1,484.97 for mileage and for­feited six days of per­sonal leave val­ued at $4,800. He also agreed to pay a $4,000 fine for a to­tal penalty val­ued at $8,800.

City Hall spokes­woman Natalie Gry­bauskas de­fended Brann.

“The mayor’s con­fi­dent in Com­mis­sioner Brann, and this is­sue has been ad­dressed at length,” she said.

The Depart­ment of Cor­rec­tion called the mis­use of of­fi­cial ve­hi­cles “in­ad­ver­tent.”

“Any dis­re­gard of city rules and reg­u­la­tions was an in­ad­ver­tent mis­un­der­stand­ing and will not re­cur,” said DOC spokesman Peter Thorne. “The depart­ment is com­mit­ted to com­ply­ing with all rec­om­men­da­tions on how to im­prove its com­pli­ance with city rules and reg­u­la­tions gov­ern­ing ve­hi­cle use and we con­sider this mat­ter closed.”

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