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EXPOSING USE OF COPS AS CHAUFFEURS: The Department of Investigation report that may be the last major one of Margaret Garnett's three-year tenure as Commissioner painted an unflattering picture of the Mayor allowing Detectives assigned to his protective detail to chauffeur family members and friends around town without his being in the vehicles. It also stated that he had yet to reimburse the city for $320,000 in expenses incurred by having members of the detail accompany him to other states on campaign business during his four-month run for President in 2019.

Less than a week after issuing a blistering report that accused Mayor de Blasio of using his NYPD security detail like a 'concierge service' to transport family and friends who were not on official city business, Investigation Commissioner Margaret Garnett announced that she would be leaving Nov. 10 to take the second-ranking job in the U.S. Attorney's Office in Manhattan.

Her appointment was announced by Damian Williams, who just three days earlier had begun his tenure as U.S. Attorney in what is considered one of the premier law-enforcement agencies in the nation. He said in a statement that Ms. Garnett in a previous 12-year stint there "led some of the office's most-important investigations and prosecutions." He added that her "storied career in public service leaves no doubt that she will be an exceptional Deputy U.S. Attorney."

A Kind of Homecoming

Ms. Garnett after leaving the U.S. Attorney's Office had worked for the State Attorney General, where she was Executive Deputy Attorney General for Criminal Justice at the time she left to become Investigation Commissioner in November 2018. 

Given her past work for the Southern District of New York and the likelihood that a new Mayor next year will want to choose his own Investigation Commissioner, Ms. Garnett probably would have taken her new position even if she had not clashed sharply with Mr. de Blasio over her report.

But his chief spokeswoman, Danielle Filson, speaking on his behalf, may have removed any ambivalence Ms. Garnett might have felt with her Oct. 7 reaction to the findings about the Protective Detail Unit by stating, "This unprofessional report purports to do the NYPD's job for them, but with none of the relevant expertise—and without even interviewing the official who heads intelligence for the city."

Ms. Garnett quickly returned fire, telling the Daily News, "I don't think that a Mayor who's interested in an effective and independent DOI would be saying that about my work."

Not Fond of Watchdogs

Mr. de Blasio had created doubts that this was what he wanted in an internal city watchdog when he fired her predecessor, Mark Peters, with the reason given that he had overstepped his authority while trying to control the Special Investigator for the city public schools. But the Mayor was known to have bristled over probes by Mr. Peters that found negligence and mismanagement in agencies under Mr. de Blasio's control including the Administration for Children's Services, the Housing Authority, and the Police Department.

The report on the protective detail was particularly exercised about its commanding officer, NYPD Inspector Howard Redmond, having "actively obstructed and sought to thwart this investigation, frustrating DOI's efforts to learn the full facts regarding these investigations. Inspector Redmond had deliberately sought to destroy official communications that he knew were sought in a DOI investigation and then misled the NYPD's own attorneys about his compliance with the demand for records."

DOI subsequently referred Inspector Redmond's alleged stonewalling attempts to the Manhattan District Attorney's Office for possible criminal prosecution. 

If the Mayor was angered by that scathing description of Inspector Redmond, he had no grounds to say he was surprised. She had put her principles on the table during her City Council confirmation hearing nearly three years ago, when she testified that the NYPD could benefit from additional reform and DOI was the right agency to point it in that direction.

She told Council Members that policing in particular offered potential for changes "given how important it is and how much power and influence it can have over the lives of New Yorkers."

'Obligation to Cooperate'

While she said her first overture to the department would be amicable, "All agencies including the NYPD have an obligation to cooperate with DOI investigations. And a failure to do so or actively obstruct or resist is really a dereliction of the public's trust in those leaders."

When she was asked then by Council Speaker Corey Johnson whether administration officials during her job interview inquired whether she would be willing to share information with them on current investigations, including those involving the Mayor's Office, she replied, "If they had, I would have withdrawn my name." 

In an email to her staff about her pending departure that was obtained by the New York Times, Ms. Garnett wrote, "You have inspired me every day with your commitment to truth-telling, to holding people accountable regardless of power or position, and to giving New Yorkers the honest government they deserve."


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