Joseph Ponte, the correction commissioner brought to New York to overhaul the city’s troubled jail system, was reprimanded in a Department of Investigation report that found he had spent 90 days outside the city last year, even as violence at Rikers Island was spiraling out of control, says the New York Times. Ponte repeatedly took his city-owned vehicle on trips to coastal Maine in violation of city guidelines, the report said. The inquiry found that 21 Correction Department employees routinely misused their agency vehicles for trips to malls, casinos and airports.
But the report singled out Ponte and his three highest-ranking aides for the “most serious misuse.” The 17-page report did not delve deeply into Ponte’s extended absences. But his time away from the city raises questions about how engaged he was in managing the department during a crucial period, as hundreds of millions of dollars were being spent on a high-profile overhaul effort. It was a troubling turn for Ponte, a widely respected corrections veteran of nearly five decades who moved to New York from a position in Maine in 2014. A spokesman for Ponte called any violation of city rules “an inadvertent misunderstanding and will not recur.” It was unclear whether any of the conduct amounted to a crime.