Amid Eavesdropping Accusations, City Jails Agency Official Is Fired
The New York City Correction Department’s top internal affairs official, who was demoted last week amid accusations that he eavesdropped on telephone conversations between city investigators and their jailhouse informers on Rikers Island, was quietly fired this week.
The official, Gregory Kuczinski, who was the Correction Department’s deputy commissioner of investigations, was initially stripped of his duties on May 8. The jails agency took that action soon after the Investigation Department made the accusations in a letter to Mayor Bill de Blasio.
The accusations of spying on city investigators as they were conducting undercover anticorruption operations, along with a city report about the misuse of agency vehicles by the correction commissioner, Joseph Ponte, Mr. Kuczinski and other top staff members — as well as the disclosure that the commissioner had been out of state for 90 days last year — prompted Mr. Ponte to announce Friday that he would resign this summer.
The troubled jails agency was under intense scrutiny well before the Investigation Department’s allegations surfaced, and they prompted further questions about the management of the agency from the City Council and city and state oversight boards.
But Mr. Kuczinski’s firing was nonetheless carried out on Monday with no public announcement and apparently little notice to other officials.
Late on Tuesday, in response to an inquiry from The New York Times, the Correction Department’s chief spokesman, Peter Thorne, issued a statement on Mr. Kuczinski’s dismissal. “Following several days of careful evaluation, Commissioner Ponte determined termination was appropriate,” the statement said.
Earlier, Mr. Ponte, in the face of the accusations against Mr. Kuczinski, defended his deputy commissioner’s actions several times. He did so when the investigations agency made the spying allegations and again after Mr. Kuczinski was removed from his internal affairs post and placed on modified duty.
The commissioner said that Mr. Kuczinski had played a limited role in the phone monitoring and suggested that the issues raised by the investigations agency stemmed from poor communications between that agency’s staff and officials at the Correction Department.
Mr. Ponte suggested on several occasions, without elaborating, that he harbored doubts about the veracity of some of the Investigation Department’s accusations.
“The truth will all get out in time,” the commissioner said in an interview on Friday in which he confirmed his plans to resign and discussed his tenure at the agency.
Efforts to reach Mr. Kuczinski for comment late Tuesday were unsuccessful. In an interview last week in which he responded to the allegations, he denied wrongdoing and disputed some aspects of the Investigation Department’s account of the eavesdropping.