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A lack of cooperation appears to be stalling an investigation — before it even begins — into allegations of possible waste and abuse at the city's Board of Elections.
An attorney for the BOE said at a hearing of the agency's commissioners that he and another attorney had refused a request for full access to employees by the Department of Investigation, which is spearheading the investigation.
Asking that DOI send any future requests in writing, BOE attorney Steve Richman also told the commissioners that his legal team criticized what they considered the possible political motivations behind the investigation.
They told the DOI representatives during a closed-door meeting that "it is beyond dispute that the mayor is not a fan of the board," BOE attorney Steve Richman told the commissioners. The legal team also pointed to a recent DOI report on the agency's handling of the 2011 election, which they said was "unfair, biased and did not tell the complete story." "I agreed that if that report is any indication of how the board would be treated in the future by DOI, the board’s concerns are entirely justified," Richman said at the BOE meeting on July 9.
The DOI would not confirm Richman's account.
The Department of Investigation says it is establishing a six-person unit to focus on "fraud, waste and corruption" at the city's Board of Elections.
The DOI, the city's 140-year-old agency dedicated to rooting out corruption, announced today that it got $824,000 to start up the investigative unit and has begun filling positions.
Because the Board of Elections is staffed by city employees, the DOI has jurisdiction over the agency.
DOI Commissioner Rose Gill Hearn said in the announcement that the decision to create the unit followed the agency's review of the November 2011 election. That investigation was labor-intensive and pointed out the need for more consistent oversight of the BOE.
"The newly created unit will provide the capacity to investigate possible waste, fraud and corruption in an expanded way that was not possible before," she said in a statement.