Correction Commissioner Cynthia Brann has been off the clock for 151 days in the two years she has led the agency, according to a report in the Daily News.
During those days, she has passed the baton to an acting commissioner to oversee the city’s jail system.
The newspaper said Ms. Brann had called on a deputy on 104 weekdays since she was appointed to the job in October 2017.
City officials quoted by the newspaper said the Commissioner was dedicated to the post. They said she had not taken excessive time off, stating that she had delegated her duties to a deputy on 47.5 weekend days, 10 holidays and during 20 vacation days.
The president of the Assistant Deputy Wardens/Deputy Wardens Association, Joseph Russo, was among those who disagreed.
“We don’t have that kind of time. My members do not have 150 days to use in two years, sick time aside,” he said.
“It’s disheartening to see she was out 151 days in two years, when in the case of the uniformed staff, for my members, it can be difficult for us to get a day off, and we’re mid-level managers,” the chief reason being that there are too few replacements.
“You’re expected to be at work and be engaged,” Mr. Russo said.
In general it can be a challenge getting time off, he said.
“The department is not running smoothly, so asking for time off can be frowned upon,” Mr. Russo said. “Forget about it if you’re an Officer or a Captain--for them it’s even more difficult getting time off.”
Comp Time Dicey
Although Deputy Wardens accrue compensatory time for overtime work (they do not get paid for it, Mr. Russo said), at times there is difficulty in using the time they have accrued.
Additionally, if his members use sick time excessively, “it reflects poorly on us,” he said.
Through a spokesman, the president of the Corrections Officers’ Benevolent Association, Elia Husamudeen, declined to comment.
Ms. Brann delegated her duties when she left the city, went on vacation, attended to city business, or used sick days, according to a DOC spokesman cited by The News.
Avery Cohen, a Deputy Press Secretary to Mayor de Blasio, said in a statement, "It's okay for Commissioner Brann to go on a business trip, take a sick day or, heaven forbid, visit her family out of town just like any other person who works for a living. At such times it would be irresponsible if she didn't assign a deputy who can respond to emergencies immediately. To suggest that she is not the ultimate decision-maker for her agency at all times is to willfully mislead the public."
Her tenure has dovetailed with the Mayor's plan to close the eight jail facilities on Rikers Island, which have been plagued by violence and overcrowding for nearly the entirety of its existence and to reduce the inmate population.
Need Fewer Inmates
The plan, called the borough-based jail system, would create 1,150-bed detention facilities in the south Bronx, downtown Brooklyn, lower Manhattan and Kew Gardens, Queens. The combined 4,600-bed facilities would mean the current jail population would have to decline significantly. The city’s average daily jail population is about 8,000.
Ms. Brann is paid $236,088 a year for a scheduled 1,825 hours a year—or just over 35 a week—according to city data.
She was appointed Commissioner in October 2017 following a four-month stint in an acting capacity that she began a month after former Commissioner Joseph Ponte retired. Mr. Ponte at the time was taking heat for the personal use of a city vehicle, spending an excessive amount of time at his home in Maine and a deputy’s alleged spying on another agency.
Ms. Brann would be accused of similar indiscretions while she was DOC’s Deputy Commissioner of Quality Assurance. The city’s Conflict of Interest Board concluded she had used her assigned DOC take-home vehicle to make 16 personal trips, including 13 trips to shopping malls. She reimbursed the department just under $500 and forfeited 8 days of personal-leave time.
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