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OpinionColumnistsLeonard Levitt

Mark Peters adds to saga over firing

Mark Peters in 2015. He served as

Mark Peters in 2015. He served as New York City Department of Investigation commissioner from 2014 until his firing by Mayor Bill de Blasio. Photo Credit: Bryan R. Smith

Of all Mark Peters’ claims against Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration, none is more perplexing than one about a 2016 meeting with top staffers from City Hall, the Department of Investigations and the NYPD.

Peters, who has been ousted as DOI commissioner, says that during the meeting, “a senior NYPD official conspicuously displayed his gun and later told a third party he had done so to intimidate the DOI officials.”

Asked the name of the official, a DOI spokeswoman who contacted Peters said he did not want to comment further.

But a former law enforcement official with firsthand knowledge of the meeting, who asked for anonymity to speak freely, described Peters’ claim as “a flat-out lie.”

Peters was fired on Nov. 16 by de Blasio after an independent investigator’s report said Peters had “exceeded his lawful authority.” Peters made his gun claim in a Nov. 19 letter to Council Speaker Corey Johnson and the chairman of the council’s Oversight and Investigations Committee, Ritchie Torres.

The meeting — at which the NYPD refused Peters’ demands to turn over what the department felt was “sensitive information” — was attended by NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill; O’Neill’s chief of staff, Ray Spinella; and then-Deputy Commissioner for Legal Matters Lawrence Byrne. Spinella was the only NYPD officer there in uniform and would have carried his firearm as uniformed cops do. O’Neill said the alleged gun incident never happened.

Also in attendance were then-First Deputy Mayor Anthony Shorris; Corporation Counsel Zachary Carter and former Department of Education Special Commissioner of Investigations Richard Condon. Peters had attempted to take over Condon’s duties after his retirement in 2017.

Peters’ investigations of the de Blasio administration included revelations of lead in city-owned buildings and the NYPD’s understaffing of its Special Victims Unit.

If nothing else, Peters’ firing shines a light on the limitations of the DOI. As currently perceived, perhaps the office cannot effectively investigate City Hall lapses, mismanagement or corruption. Perhaps another agency, say the public advocate, would be a more effective investigative agency. Granting the public advocate subpoena powers could be a game-changer.

The danger with wider powers is that the office could become a venue for politicians with their own agendas, a la Peters, who was treasurer of de Blasio’s 2013 mayoral campaign.

Just think, the two had been friends.

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