The new head of the city’s Department of Correction and eight other agency officials have agreed to pay hefty fines for using their official vehicles for personal trips, the Conflicts of Interest Board announced Tuesday.
Cynthia Brann, who took over as commissioner at the troubled agency in October, admitted in a settlement with the COIB that between Jan. 9 and Aug. 13, 2016 she violated regulations on 16 separate occasions by using her agency vehicle to go mall shopping or on drives to the airport.
She agreed to pay a $6,000 fine and to surrender five eight days of personal leave valued at $5,824, while reimbursing the city $493.67 for mileage.
Brann, who lives in Queens, took 13 trips to shopping malls on Long Island, two to JFK Airport and another trip on July 10, 2016 to Gateway Plaza Mall in Brooklyn and JFK.
At the time, she was a deputy commissioner.
In October, Mayor de Blasio tapped Brann as DOC commissioner to replace Joseph Ponte.
At the time, Ponte’s own personal use of city vehicles had also come under scrutiny as part of a sweeping Department of Investigation probe.
Brann, who like Ponte served in Maine before coming to New York, admitted to using a city car “on weekends almost exclusively for shopping” and to pick up her husband at the airport, according to a DOI report issued in April.
“Brann stated that she never physically responded to departmental emergencies with her city car,” the DOI report continued. “Instead, her subordinates would respond on her behalf and brief her via telephone and email.”
In her COIB deposition, Brann claimed she misused her take-home car because she “erroneously believe[d]that I was allowed to use [it] for personal travel in case a DOC emergency required by immediate response and travel to a DOC facility.”
Besides Brann, DOC Chief of Staff Jeff Thamkittikasem and seven agency wardens and deputy wardens agreed to pay fines for misusing their official vehicles.
Thamkittikasem admitted making 14 personal trips last year, including 11 to airports in New York City and Newark. The remaining three were for trips were to Washington DC, Virginia and Suffolk County.
He agreed to reimburse $1,484.97 for mileage and forfeited 6 days of personal leave valued at $4,800. He also agreed to pay a $4,000 fine for a total penalty valued at $8,800.
City Hall spokeswoman Natalie Grybauskas defended Brann and said the car issue isn’t new.
“The Mayor’s confident in Commissioner Brann, and this issue has been addressed at length,” she said.
The Department of Correction said the misuse of official vehicles was “inadvertent” and won’t happen again.
“Any disregard of City rules and regulations was an inadvertent misunderstanding and will not recur. The Department is committed to complying with all recommendations on how to improve its compliance with City rules and regulations governing vehicle use and we consider this matter closed,” said DOC spokesman Peter Thorne.