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De Blasio fires New York City's ethics watchdog

Commissioner of Investigation Mark Peters' dismissal brought to end a turbulent tenure that began in 2014.  

Mayor Bill de Blasio has directed the firing of the city’s watchdog, investigation commissioner Mark Peters, over misconduct.  De Blasio speaks at City Hall on Friday.  (Credit: Newsday / Matthew Chayes)

Mayor Bill de Blasio  has directed the firing of New York City’s ethics watchdog, capping a tumultuous, nearly five-year tenure in which the two  sparred over how the mayor's team raises political donations, runs public housing and sets manpower at the NYPD sex-crimes unit.

De Blasio cited an independent report issued a month ago finding that the watchdog, Commissioner of Investigation Mark Peters, overstepped his authority when he tried to seize control of an office that investigates public schools, fired a whistleblower who complained, and displayed discourteous and unprofessional behavior — conduct for which he apologized.  

Peters had once been de Blasio’s campaign treasurer and close friend, and the two faced criticism upon the appointment in 2014 that the watchdog post could be neutered as a result.  The relationship soured, however, as Peters pursued repeated probes of de Blasio, a fellow Democrat. 

On Friday, Peters wasn't fired by de Blasio himself. He was summoned to a meeting with First Deputy Mayor Dean Fuleihan, who carried out the mayor’s orders, the men said.  

In a written statement, Peters said he would respond in writing to the firing, as is his right under the City Charter, which requires that the investigations commissioner be fired for cause.

In Peters’ place, de Blasio nominated Margaret Garnett, currently New York State’s executive deputy attorney general for criminal justice. The City Council must approve the nomination. 

De Blasio has broken with his modern-day predecessors in rarely if ever firing a senior subordinate with whom he's dissatisfied. De Blasio declined to say whom else he has fired. Mayoral spokesman Eric Phillips said he could not recall another person at Peters' level whom the mayor had fired for misconduct.

The incoming state attorney general, Public Advocate Letitia James, said the firing by de Blasio reflected “Trump-like behavior.”  De Blasio called such a claim “apples and oranges if ever there was one.”

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