NEW YORK (FOX 5 NY) - Joseph Ponte resigned as New York City's correction commissioner after a scathing report by the Department of Investigation found that he and 20 other senior-level employees regularly abused take-home vehicle privileges. 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.
Ponte said in a statement Friday that he is retiring and was happy to have spent the last chapter of his career in New York.
"I'm confident that all the hard work we've accomplished has positioned the Department for even more meaningful reform in the days ahead," Ponte said in the statement. "It has truly been my honor to serve as Commissioner of the New York City Department of Correction."
The DOI 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.
On Thursday, Mayor Bill de Blasio defended his correction commissioner and said that critics were obsessing over the issue of the misuse of city-owned vehicles.
In a statement Friday, de Blasio said the city owes a "debt of gratitude" to Ponte for his efforts to reform the jail system.
"While much work remains, there is no doubt that our city's jails are safer, more rehabilitative, and more humane as a result of Commissioner Ponte's work," de Blasio said in the statement.
This week, City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito called on Ponte to resign in light of the DOI report and other problems at Rikers Island.
With the Associated Press