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.