The Department of Correction fired its internal affairs and investigations commissioner this week in the wake of city investigators' allegations that he and subordinates eavesdropped on their calls to jail informants.
The official, DOC Investigation Division Deputy Commissioner Gregory Kuczinzski, was demoted last Monday after the Department of Investigation announced its allegations.
"Following several days of careful evaluation, Commissioner [Joseph] Ponte determined termination was appropriate," DOC spokesman Peter Thorne wrote in an emailed statement.
Ponte announced his early retirement on Friday, battered by the Kuczinski scandal as well as persistent questions about his unauthorized use of a city car to drive to Maine repeatedly, including 29 days when he was supposed to be working. It's not clear when exactly Ponte's retirement will become effective, and the agency did not respond to a question about that.
The Department of Investigation is an independent government watchdog with wide latitude to investigate malfeasance across city agencies. It has recently put the DOC, manager of Rikers Island and jails across the city, under the microscope. Among its many criticisms of Ponte was that he promoted Kuczinski to head the Investigative Division in 2016 just days after Kuczinski was fined $1,500 for having a subordinate drive him and his family to the airport for a vacation. Kuczinski, a lawyer and retired NYPD sergeant, also had no relevant experience in internal affairs, and limited experience overseeing investigations.
The DOC's Investigative Division is charged with investigating wrongdoing internally. Kuczinski also headed the agency's Intelligence Bureau. Talking to the New York Times, Ponte and Kuczinski didn't deny that the DOC had monitored city investigators' calls, but said that the listening was not improper. Kuczinski told the paper that he was investigating whether DOI was trying to frame Correction officials, and didn't notify anyone outside the DOC because it would have been a conflict for DOI. He also said that by leveling allegations, the DOI might be "trying to cover something up."
The New York Post subsequently reported that Kuczinski and his wife own a home in White Plains and his wife lives there, but Kuczinski rented an apartment in Queens to satisfy the city's residency requirement. It's not clear how much time he spends in the city—the tabloid wrote that he voted in Westchester County in April 2016.
Two numbers listed for Kuczinski in White Plains were disconnected when we called.