Mayor Bill de Blasio has nominated his close friend and former campaign treasurer to serve as the next commissioner of the agency tasked with investigating his administration.
Mark Peters, a former prosecutor who formerly served as chief of the Public Corruption Unit in Eliot Spitzer’s Attorney General’s Office, has been nominated to head the Department of Investigation, which is charged with rooting out corruption and investigating city employees and contractors.
“Mark Peters is a man with immense personal integrity and extensive experience protecting the interests of New Yorkers,” said Mr. de Blasio in a statement. “He is steadfastly committed to ensuring that government works honestly for every citizen, and he will continue to work tirelessly to ensure New York City’s government lives up to the highest ethical standards.”
While the Mayor’s Office’s press release mostly focuses on touting Mr. Peter’s track record fighting corruption, Mr. Peters is also a close friend of the mayor, whom he has known since the pair served together on a Park Sloe school board in the 1990s, according to the New York Times. He later went on to serve as the treasurer of Mr. de Blasio’s campaign.
But Mr. Peters dismissed concerns about whether his close relationship with Mr. de Blasio would prevent him from investigating the mayor’s administration.
“There absolutely needs to be some distance,” he told the Daily News yesterday. “Less than a year after Governor Paterson appointed me to the state’s Public Integrity Commission, I was part of a group that levied the largest single fine in state history on Governor Paterson. If someone is worried about (distance), that’s your answer.”
And Dick Dadey, executive director at the good government group Citizens Union, who is usually quick to criticize appearance of impartiality, also offered his defense.
“Peters has a reputation of integrity and is a good and fair prosecutor. That he is close to the mayor shouldn’t affect his impartiality since he has his own reputation and DOI’s success depends upon fair-minded and independent leadership,” said Mr. Dadey via email.
“The mayor needs someone he knows and can trust to do the job. Prejudging someone because of an existing relationship undervalues their professionalism,” he added.
Currently a partner at Edwards Wildman Palmer LLP where “he advises clients in the insurance and financial services industry on a wide variety of matters including government investigations,” according to the company’s bio, Mr. Peters previously served as chief of the Public Integrity Unit and deputy chief of the Civil Rights Bureau in the Attorney General’s Office, where he went after political corruption and mortgage fraud.
The former commissioner, Rose Gill Hearn, stepped down at the end of last year.
Update (11:04 a.m.): Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito released a rather matter-of-fact statement on the nomination:
“The Department of Investigation is a crucial city agency that guards taxpayers from corruption, fraud, waste and abuse and the Council looks forward to a thorough and comprehensive hearing about how Mr. Peters will carry out that important mission.
New Yorkers expect and deserve a commissioner at DOI who will vigorously guard their interests and I expect Council Members will be ready next week with tough and pointed questions for how Mr. Peters will look out for New York’s hardworking taxpayers.”