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East of the Rock, West of the Hard Place

October 29, 2018

Nothing better defines Mayor de Blasio as a doofus than his dithering over Investigations Commissioner Mark Peters.

Click here to read what the police brass say about NYPD ConfidentialThere’s no question what previous mayors would have done if their DOI commissioners had issued blistering reports about their leadership, as Peters has about de Blasio. To say nothing of hinting, as Peters has also, that if de Blasio fires him, he might release another blistering report, this one suggesting that the mayor intervened in a critical review of Yeshiva education in Brooklyn’s ultra-Orthodox Jewish community, a voting block that has long backed him.

In addition, Peters has run his office poorly and may have lied to the City Council. He has admitted apologizing to his staff for mistreating them. Even his supporters, City Council Speaker Corey Johnson and Ritchie Torres, head of the committee with oversight over DOI, have expressed concerns.

Says George Arzt, the former press secretary to Mayor Ed Koch: “Koch would have personally taken Peters by the scruff of his neck and thrown him out on the City Hall Plaza.” And, Arzt added, “The media would all have applauded.”

Now some quick history. DOI was founded in 1873 after the looting of city funds by Boss Tweed, and now serves as the city’s independent inspector general. The commissioner reports to the mayor and the City Council and according to DOI’s website “operates independently of both.”

At least, that’s the theory. In practice, things are different. The DOI commissioner’s job for as long as anyone can remember has been to protect the mayor. So much so that in years past, City Hall reporters described the DOI commissioner as Commissioner Whitewash. Says a City Hall insider: “Every DOI commissioner told the mayor what was wrong, so the mayor could get ahead of the story and issue his own news release.”

Click here to read the New York Times profile of Leonard LevittWhy de Blasio appointed Peters, who served as the mayor’s campaign treasurer, in 2014, is also problematic. The appointment was an indication that Peters was allied with the mayor and his agenda. Peters had political ambitions of his own, including a possible run for Brooklyn district attorney.

Instead, the appointment backfired. Peters was soon issuing reports critical of the mayor. These included lead paint in public housing and parking placard abuse as well as proof that the city’s former correction commissioner was driving his official car to his home in Maine, which led to the commissioner’s resignation.

At the same time, a report by an independent investigator — apparently leaked by City Hall — accused Peters of overstepping boundaries in attempting to take control of the school system’s investigative office. The report criticized Peters for violating the city’s whistle-blower protection law.

Click here to read the Washington Post article on NYPD ConfidentialSo why didn’t de Blasio fire Peters? Every government insider knows you have to get rid of this guy,” said the City Hall insider, who spoke on condition of anonymity to speak freely about the issue. The mayor, he said, “studies things too much. They are looking at the law, at the process. That gets in the way of any action. The mayor has held on to him too long — to his detriment.”

But by not firing him earlier, the mayor has a problem: does he legitimately fire someone who some of his own staff say how badly he’s led the office at the risk of seeming to fire him because of the critical reports he has issued? East of the rock, west of the hard place.

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