The head of the city’s embattled Department of Correction will resign on Friday, a day after Mayor de Blasio defended him from a series of allegations of impropriety, the Daily News has learned.
Ponte turned in his city-issued car Thursday and was going to formally announce his departure to staff soon, according to three jail insiders.
“He’s leaving tomorrow,” a source familiar with the situation said.
Ponte has been in hot water for weeks after the city Department of Investigation revealed he repeatedly drove his city car to Maine on personal business, putting more than 18,000 miles on the ride and spending more than $ 1,500 in gas and tolls on the city’s dime.
The probe also found that Ponte was out of state more than 90 days last year, during which there were 27 inmate-on-inmate stabbings, three slashings of officers, the on-duty death of a staff member, an inmate death and an escape.
But 35 of the days Ponte spent out of state were during the work week, and he only took time off for six of them — meaning he spent 29 days billing the city for an eight-hour workday out of state.
On Thursday night, a spokesman for Ponte, 70, declined to discuss Ponte’s pending resignation.
“Commissioner Ponte has ushered in sweeping reform of our jail system and he enjoys the mayor’s confidence,” Eric Phillips said in a statement.
Ponte’s early end to his tenure at his $ 214,413-a-year job marks the second major stepping down of an agency head under de Blasio in a matter of months.
In February, Hizzoner’s handpicked head of the beleaguered Administration for Children’s Services, Gladys Carrion, resigned amid widespread problems at the child welfare agency.
City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito broke with de Blasio earlier in the week to call for the correction commissioner to resign as concern grew over the controversies and alleged misuse of city resources.
The mayor bizarrely compared the freewheeling commissioner’s misuse of a city car to Hillary Clinton’s private email server.
“All people want to talk about is the godforsaken cars,” de Blasio vented to WNYC’s Brian Lehrer on Thursday. “I feel like when Bernie Sanders said in that debate, ‘Enough with the damn emails!’ The car isn’t the issue — the issue is, has he made our correction system better?”
De Blasio argued that more importantly than Ponte “accidentally” using the car for personal business were the commissioner’s results — insisting Ponte had reduced violence “in a host of ways.”
But the department’s stabbing and slashing statistics tell a different story.
There have been 44 slashings and stabbings through March this year, up from 36 for the same period last year. For the fiscal year, from July 2016 through March 2017, there have been 133 stabbings and slashings, up from 101 for the same period in fiscal 2016.
Asked about rising violence at Rikers at an unrelated Brooklyn press conference later that afternoon, de Blasio, now in his fourth year in office, blamed his predecessor.
“What you’re talking about is a guy who inherited a mess,” de Blasio said of Ponte, who took over the jails in 2014.
With Erin Durkin