Jail Leaders Treated More Leniently Than Subordinates for Car Use

On May 11, the same day Mr. de Blasio pledged he would make the city whole, Mr. Ponte wrote the city a check for $1,790 for gas and tolls, according to a mayoral spokeswoman, Natalie Grybauskas.

But Mr. Ponte paid nothing for the mileage accumulated on his city car during his personal trips — a reimbursement that all the other correction employees who misused their vehicles and continued to work at the agency were required to make. The city calculates the cost of vehicle use at 54 cents a mile, so a reimbursement for Mr. Ponte’s vehicle use during the period covered by the investigation would have been $9,990. He also made no reimbursement for vehicle use before 2016.

And while other correction employees were given departmental penalties for their improper vehicle use, Mr. Ponte, at the mayor’s insistence, got none.

The seemingly favorable treatment given higher-ups turned out to be the mirror image of disciplinary actions handed down in November by the independent Conflicts of Interest Board, which assessed harsher discipline on Ms. Brann and the other senior official, the chief of staff, Jeff Thamkittikasem, than on their subordinates. The conflicts board has not yet announced any action regarding Mr. Ponte.

The Department of Investigation revealed the rampant misuse of city vehicles at the Correction Department in a report released in April. It found that 21 correction employees misused city vehicles assigned to them, including Mr. Ponte, who spent 90 days outside the city on his Maine excursions, Ms. Brann, who made numerous weekend trips to Long Island shopping malls and to Kennedy Airport, and Mr. Thamkittikasem, who took multiday trips to Virginia and the Washington area.

Mr. de Blasio strongly defended Mr. Ponte, who said he was unaware that it was against policy to use official vehicles for personal travel. But on May 12, two weeks after the vehicle report was released, Mr. Ponte announced he would resign. His last day at the department was June 28.

Photo

Cynthia Brann, the current correction commissioner, used city cars to take trips to Long Island shopping malls and to Kennedy Airport.

Credit
New York City Department of Correction

Ms. Grybauskas said that Mr. Ponte was allowed to count the vehicle mileage as part of his compensation. She said that his compensation reported to the Internal Revenue Service would be amended to include more…

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