Mayor, council speaker split over correction commissioner

- New York Mayor Bill de Blasio continues to defend his correction commissioner and said that critics are obsessing over the issue of the misuse of city-owned vehicles.

However, the City Council speaker couldn't disagree more. Melissa Mark-Viverito is now on the record calling for Commissioner Joseph Ponte to resign in the wake of several revelations about him and the department.

Recently, the Department of Investigation issued a scathing 17-page report that found that Ponte and 20 other senior-level employees at the Correction Department regularly abused take-home vehicle privileges, costing city taxpayers thousands of dollars. The DOI report found Ponte used his city-issued SUV for 90 days' worth of out-of-state trips, mostly to his home in Maine.

The report also found that jail officials spied on DOI investigators probing the Correction Department by monitoring their phone calls. At a City Council hearing Monday, Ponte blamed a new phone system and said the monitoring was not intentional.

At a news conference Thursday, de Blasio said that while he has great respect for the City Council speaker, he will continue to defend Ponte. The mayor said that Ponte made a mistake and will pay back the city for use of the SUV.

Ponte acknowledged that he made a mistake but thought he was allowed to use his work-issued SUV as he pleased because he is on call 24 hours a day.

However, DOI said the rules were clear from the start.

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