NEW YORK (WABC) -- When Marc Conte graduated as an Enforcement Office for the New York City Sanitation Department, he saw himself as a 'green' cop, helping to make New York cleaner and greener. He says he soon realized the agency had a different focus.
"It's about the money...you know, my dream of a green cop. No, it's about the money," Conte says.
Conte says he learned almost from the start, it was all about a ticket quota.
"It's the centerpiece of the operation. There's nothing else. It's generate cash for the city, write tickets - if you don't write tickets, you're not doing your job," he adds.
The Rookie Enforcement Agent started secretly recording his supervisor during roll call.
"I've seen some of the numbers. I'm not happy with. It's going to fall back on me - they expect double digits," said the Supervising Lieutenant.
And by double digits, Conte says, his supervisor expected him and the other agents to write at least 10 tickets every shift.
"Yesterday's numbers - some above 10, others below 10," The Supervising Lieutenant added.
"There, it is clear as day that there is a quota, and you hear the lieutenant of 25 years describe it exactly," Conte says.
Conte was fired after one year. The one sentence-termination notice gives no reason why. Conte has filed suit claiming illegal discrimination and retaliation due in his part to his complaints about a '10 ticket per day quota on agents.' He has provided the court with the recordings of his boss.
"This is a job, we all know what we gotta do, we know what's expected. Our big function is to generate revenue for the city, that's basically what we are. Nothing else about is - we go out, write tickets and go home," his boss could be heard saying.
In no time, Eyewitness News found small businesses who felt as if they were victims of a Sanitation shakedown.
Igor Legosdaed is a juice store manager.
Hoffer: "So when you were ticketed, it was right here, up against the building?"
Hoffer: "Up against the building?"
Legosdaed: "Just like that how it's standing now."
Legosdaed had to pay a $100 fine for obstructing the sidewalk, even though their sign was up against the store, nowhere near where people walk.
"It's pretty ridiculous, because there's no reason for it," Legosdaed says.
Drug Worx Pharmacy Owner Igor Fattakhod has been hit twice for litter in the street.
"I'm like, we're on Broadway, I'm like, there's wrappers everywhere, and there's wind, and I'm like, 'there's nothing here, what are you talking about?'" Fattakhod says.
The third time he got a summons, he took pictures which showed his sidewalk was clean. Fattahkhod said he felt it was like a shakedown.
"Of course, and that month we got like two, and the about is like up to $300...that's a lot of money. And I can't really, you know, can I beat it?" he says.
In a statement to Eyewitness News, the Department of Sanitation says it 'does not maintain or enforce ticket quotas, nor does it discipline employees for failure to write a minimum number of tickets.' A spokesman added that Mr. Conte's lawsuit includes 'meritless claims.'
Conte says the recording calls into question Sanitation's quota denial.
"Stop the quota for the people of New York City - cut it out. You know, stop forcing your tickets down everybody's throat. Follow the law, you're law enforcement," Conte said.
SHARE YOUR STORY
Do you have a story that needs to be investigated? 7 On Your Side Investigates at Eyewitness News want to hear from you!
Email your questions, issues, and story ideas to 7OnYourSideJim@abc.com, call our confidential tip line 1-877-TIP-NEWS (847-6397), or fill out the form above.