Friday, October 3, 2014

NYC Law Department

I have previously written about the inherent conflict of interest in the NYC Law Department. You would think that the lawyers at the Law Department represent the citizens of New York City and their best interests. You would also think that full disclosure is in the best interest of the citizens on New York City.

On September 21, 2014 NY Times published an article about a scandal at the NYC Department of Corrections concerning a falsification of official records in 2011. In 2012, when the fraud was discovered by DOC investigators, the Corrections Commissioner chose to radically alter the investigatos' report by erasing all damaging information relating to the roles of the two senior DOC managers involved. She had previously promoted those managers.

The following is a quote from that article:

The audit’s authors said that the testimony of both Mr. Clemons and Mr. Gumusdere pointed to a “complete abdication” of their obligations as managers, recommending that both be demoted “based on their admitted lack of attention to critical duties and responsibilities of jail management.”

Then Ms. Schriro intervened. After consulting with the department’s legal counsel, and being told she had the authority to alter the report, she ordered the reference to demotion removed, Ms. Schriro said. She also directed the investigative division to remove large portions of the most critical material involving Mr. Clemons and Mr. Gumusdere, including the statement that “it defies logic to think that they could have concluded that the number of fights RNDC reported during these months was accurate.”


In February 2013, as part of their civil rights investigation, the federal authorities made a detailed request to the city for documents related to the use of force by guards on teenage inmates and violence between the adolescents. The request included “all” documents related to audits and reviews to assess the accuracy and integrity of reporting on such incidents, including, but not limited to, “working papers and any other documents reflecting findings or recommendations,” according to one person who was told of the request.

A city Law Department official said on Friday that the first version of the report was not produced in response to the original federal requests because it was treated as a draft and seen as privileged. Last week, the United States attorney’s office specifically requested it from the city, and the current corporation counsel, Zachary W. Carter, decided that it should be turned over — and it was, the official said.

It is clear that the Law Department under the Bloomberg administration withheld significant evidence from federal authorities who were investigating serious allegations about activities at the NYC Department of Corrections during the Bloomberg administration. The reason given, that the original audit with specific supporting details was a draft and privileged, is what you might expect from a lawyer in private practice. The citizens of New York City, however, are entitled to have their attorneys represent their best interests and not the Commissioner of Corrections or city hall.

The current Corporation Counsel, a former US Attorney in the Eastern District, has now turned over the "privileged" report to the federal authorities.

As a general principal the public has a right to see everything that our government does as outlined in our freedom of information laws. The attorney at the Department of Corrections who signed off on the altered report and the lawyers at the Law Department who labeled the report as privileged should be fired for incorrect legal decisions. And we all know that what they did should be considered illegal.