City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito is calling on embattled Correction Commissioner Joseph Ponte to step down. NY1's Courtney Gross filed the following report.
City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito became the highest-profile politician to call for Correction Commissioner Joseph Ponte to resign.
"There seems to be a lack of leadership and a lack of confidence within the agency. Those are real genuine concerns. For me, those are the things that led me to this point," the Council speaker said. "I mean, I want to thank the commissioner for his service."
Mark-Viverito's position is in sharp contrast with her partner in government. Mayor Bill de Blasio has defended Ponte as two separate scandals shake up the department.
For one, this week, the Correction Department was accused of spying on city investigators speaking to confidential informants on Rikers Island.
Last month, Ponte and other correction officials were caught misusing their city cars for personal business. In 2016, Ponte left town in his city car for 90 days. Much of that time was spent in coastal Maine, where he owned a home.
Officials are prohibited from using their city cars for personal purposes.
All along, Ponte has said he was given bad guidance from former officials at the department, a defense he made under oath at a City Council hearing on Monday.
"The chief of staff, the first deputy commissioner, people in office at the time I arrived," Ponte said.
At least one of those officials, Mark Cranston, denied that ever happened, raising the question of perjury for Ponte.
"I definitely will take a look at that seriously, in terms of talking to the staff about it. But I can't speak directly to that at the moment," the Council speaker said.
In response to the Speaker's call, the other side of City Hall took a conciliatory tone.
A mayoral spokesperson sent us a statement that read, "We respect Speaker Mark-Viverito's view. The Mayor and Speaker have shared goals when it comes to reforming and eventually closing Rikers Island. That’s our focus and we appreciate the Speaker’s dedicated and important role in that process."
Corrections has been an issue the speaker has really owned, which may mean that her call for Ponte's resignation could have more influence on the other side of City Hall.