2012-06-15 / Top Stories

Mayor Versus Judge Over Cost Of FDNY Monitor

By Howard Schwach

A federal judge who had previously ruled that the New York City Fire Department’s minority hiring process was “racist” and “flawed” ended Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s move to oversee the bills provided by the monitor appointed by that judge by refusing to let the city look at the bills.

City attorneys argued last week that ex-federal prosecutor Mark Cohen was padding the bills he was sending to the judge and that the city had no way of knowing whether that was true.

Cohen has already charged the city more than $600,000 for four months work – $150,000 a month.

And, just this week, Cohen submitted another bill for a two-month period, this one for more than $350,000.

At that rate, experts say, the city would have to pay out more than $2 million a year for more than 10 years, a total cost of $20 million over the period of the monitor’s mandate. “There appears to be a great deal of wastefulness,” the city said in its court papers.

Judge Nicholas Garaufis, who made the original ruling and who picked his former co-worker Cohen for the monitor’s position, told reporters for the New York Post, “The court is satisfied that the monitor has been working diligently, efficiently and successfully on a wide range of issues.”

City lawyers had suggested that the monitor’s bill indicates that there may be a good deal of duplication of work and questioned the need for four or five lawyers from Cohen’s firm to attend the same interviews with FDNY officials, a New York Daily News story revealed.

The Daily News report also said that the city was unhappy about the fact that the attorney hours are being billed at $650 an hour, rather than the lower $425 an hour court-approved rate.

Garaufis, in his reply to the city, testily reminded Corporation Counsel Michael Cardozo that Cohen worked for the judge, not for the city and the city had no right to overlook his work progress.

The city has asked the Court of Appeals to reverse the rulings and to remove Garaufis from the case, arguing that he has become more of an advocate than a fair and impartial justice.

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