NYC bigs to pay for ‘free rides’
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.”