NYC jail commissioner Joseph Ponte announces retirement amid car-use controversy

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Political reporter Dave Evans has the latest details.

New York City's Department of Correction commissioner announced his retirement Friday, amid calls for him to step down following a controversy involving city resources.

Joseph Ponte released a statement, saying it's been an honor to serve as commissioner for the past three years:
"I am happy to have spent the last chapter of my career in New York City. It was a privilege to work with the men and women of the Department as we reduced violence and the overuse of punitive segregation, brought on 3,700 new officers, retrained a large part of the staff, added thousands of security cameras, and provided new opportunities for education and training for inmates, among many other initiatives."

Mayor Bill de Blasion, who has defended Ponte, thanked him for his service to the city.

"Joe Ponte has spent his life reforming jails," Mayor de Blasio said in a statement. "New York City owes a debt of gratitude to Commissioner Ponte for his tireless efforts to change the culture and improve the effectiveness of one of the nation's most challenging jail systems. While much work remains, there is no doubt that our city's jails are safer, more rehabilitative, and more humane as a result of Commissioner Ponte's work."

New York City Council's speaker, Democratic Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, was calling for Ponte's resignation, citing a lack of confidence in his leadership.

The city's Department of Investigation found that Ponte took his city-owned vehicle to Maine in violation of guidelines and other Department of Correction officials misused their agency vehicles with trips to Cape Cod, the Hamptons and other destinations.

Mark-Viverito said lower-level city employees have been suspended or even fired for misuse of city vehicles, which factored into her decision to call for Ponte's resignation.
De Blasio strongly defended Ponte Thursday, calling him "a person of integrity, he believed he was doing what was appropriate." The mayor appeared to indicate that Ponte can stay in the job as long as he likes.

"I am so convinced that this obsession with the vehicles is missing the facts," he said at a news conference. "I believe a mistake was made. I believe human beings make mistakes. He will pay for every mile and every gallon of gas, and any other disciplinary action. I'm just not going to fixate on this."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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