The recent resignation of Correction Commissioner Joseph Ponte amid revelations that he had traveled more than 18,000 miles to and from his home in Maine in a city-issued car (often on days when he was on the city clock) does not mark the first time a de Blasio administration commissioner has appeared to run afoul of ethics rules. Last winter, it was the FDNY leader, Daniel Nigro, who got into hot water by having some of the Bravest shovel out his home after a hefty snowfall.
Of course, de Blasio is not the first mayor to encounter such troubles. The CityTime affair under his predecessor—where a key city official had very clear potential conflicts—stands as one of the most costly scandals ever to strike the city. So the Ponte problem raises the question: Have Mayor de Blasio’s appointees strayed into ethical grey zones more often than Mayor Bloomberg’s?
There’s no definitive proof one way or another, but one incomplete indicator is the Conflict of Interest Board’s annual tally of how may employees have been fined or suspended for breaking COIB rules.
Comparing the last three years under Bloomberg to the first three under de Blasio reveals that Bloomberg saw more employees fined (150 versus 142), more money paid in fines ($637,000 versus $534,000), two more employees suspended (62 versus 60) and those employees spending more time on the sidelines (1439 total suspension days 2011-2013 versus 1,060 over the 2014-2016 period). The charts below break down the year to year movements.
Of course, these differences could reflect a lot of things. Maybe COIB violations are more common in the final phase of an administration than during its opening years. Maybe co-workers were more willing to drop a dime on violators during the Bloomberg years. Or maybe, like Ponte’s odometer, the numbers speak for themselves: When it comes to the broad picture of ethical lapses, the Bloomberg and de Blasio administrations resemble one another much more than they resemble the cartoon versions of the no-nonsense technocrat versus the sloppy manager.