Mayor Bill de Blasio took the advice offered a month ago by NYPD Confidential, which quoted George Arzt, press secretary to former Mayor Ed Koch. Arzt said that if Koch had a commissioner of investigations like Mark Peters, Koch “would have personally taken Peters by the scruff of his neck and thrown him out on the City Hall Plaza.”
On Friday, de Blasio fired Peters. But the question is: What took the mayor so long? Said Arzt, “Everyone was asking, ‘What was Bill waiting for?’ ”
A scathing report about Peters by an independent investigator was completed Oct. 10. By not firing Peters then, de Blasio is paying a price.
In theory, the Department of Investigations commissioner serves as the city’s independent inspector general, reporting to the mayor and City Council but operating independently of both. For as long as anyone can remember, the commissioner’s actual job has been to protect the mayor. Not for nothing did past City Hall reporters refer to the DOI commissioner as Commissioner Whitewash.
Not Peters. He produced reports about city agencies that embarrassed the mayor. Most notable was his disclosure of lead paint in the city’s housing authority apartments and his critical report of staffing and training at NYPD’s Special Victims Division.
A solid public servant, you might think. Well, think again. Peters also tried to take control of the school system’s investigative office. When the head of that office, Anastasia Coleman, resisted, Peters fired her. This led to the appointment of James McGovern as an independent investigator. He concluded that Peters had “exceeded his lawful authority” and given misleading testimony to the council.
Instead of firing Peters when the report came out a month ago, the mayor dithered. Now Peters is hinting the mayor fired him to prevent his carrying out investigations. And some are buying it. Already the New York Post’s editorial board is blathering that the council “needs to hold a hearing where Peters gets his say — and perhaps explore ways to block” his firing.
No, we haven’t heard the last of Peters. On Monday, Peters fired back, releasing an 11-page memo in which he casts doubt on de Blasio’s reasons for dismissing him and volunteers to testify before the council.
That would be interesting.