At a City Council oversight hearing earlier this month, Correction Department Commissioner Joseph Ponte was asked why his Chief of Department, William Clemons, was not present. In a 2012 internal audit that was later scrubbed by then-Commissioner Dora Schriro, Clemons and another ranking official were found to have "abdicated all responsibility" in their duties to oversee the juvenile detention center, which at the time was mired in what the DOJ described as "a deep-seated culture of violence." Ponte, who promoted Clemons in May, told the councilmembers that Clemons was "on a long-planned vacation." Now it appears that vacation is permanent.

"Chief Clemons was a model of stability in a tumultuous time. Our staff will greatly miss him, and so will I," Ponte said in a statement announcing Clemons's retirement, effective December 1st.

Under Chief Clemon’s [sic] guidance, the Department undertook and realized many substantial reforms, including implementing an early lock-in at all of our facilities, creating a management plan for a new category of Young Adult inmates ages 18 - 21, and rolling out specialized housing for high-custody and mentally ill inmates which will almost certainly result in safer jails and better long-term outcomes for inmates.

Clemons also presided over an era of unprecedented violence at the juvenile unit on Rikers. Correction officers used "headshots" to contain teenaged inmates, taunted them while they attempted suicide in solitary confinement, and beat inmates who refused to stifle reports of violence.

Clemons told the auditors in 2012 that he found Excel spreadsheets of daily inmate fights too difficult to read and did not know how to print them. Turhan Gumusdere, a deputy warden, told the auditors the same thing, and that he assigned his staff to read the reports, even though they were "incompetent."

The audit recommended that both men be fired. According to the Times, Commissioner Schriro ordered a new draft of the audit with these conclusions omitted and the number of violence incidents dialed down. Ponte promoted Clemons to Deputy Chief in May.

"In the attempts to really turn this agency around to make the changes, the systemic changes that really need to be made, do you really think it was appropriate to not only keep these individuals on board, but to promote them?" Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito asked Ponte at the hearing.

"Yes," Ponte replied, pointing Clemons' decades of experience. "The report that I reviewed when I promoted them was not the report you're reading from."

In a joint statement released this morning, Mark-Viverito and Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley said, "For too long, the Department of Correction has been rife with the mismanagement and mistreatment of inmates, and the Council’s oversight has only served to further shed light on the deep-seated issues plaguing the DOC.

"We thank U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara for spearheading investigations and urge Mayor de Blasio and Commissioner Ponte to appoint new leadership that will commit to implementing transparent and humane policies that will keep the public safe, maintain the dignity of the City’s jailed population and resolve long-standing allegations of abuse and neglect at Rikers Island.”