2012-08-24 / Top Stories

City Refuses To Pay FDNY Monitor

By Howard Schwach

The check is not in the mail.

The Corporation Counsel, the city’s top attorney, won’t cut a check for nearly $200,000 to Mark Cohen, the monitor appointed by federal Judge Nicholas Garaufis to oversee the hiring and testing for the city’s fire department.

So far, in less than a year, Cohen has billed the city for nearly 1 million, and Corporation Counsel Michael Cardozo is mad and not going to take it anymore.

Cardozo has refused to sign a check for the latest installment, $191,688.14, charging that Cohen padded his bill with “unnecessary work.”

Cardozo went to Garaufis’ court last week, asking the judge to reduce the amount billed by his monitor, charging that a lot of the work being done by Cohen and his law firm duplicates work already done by city employees or experts who work for the city.

The city’s complaints about each of the first two bills fell on deaf ears and the judge rejected the city’s motions.

Garaufis also refused to allow city attorneys to review the bills before making payment.

“The monitor works for me and not for the city,” Garaufis said at the time he rejected the city’s motion on the first bill.

“While the city’s ability to object has been severely constrained by the court’s previous denial of its request for access to the Court Monitor’s hourly billing records, even without access to the hourly record, the city contends that the publicly accessible summary of the monitor’s hours raises substantial questions about the reasonableness of the statement of fees,” the city said in its papers filed on August 20.

Cardozo argued that the monitor expended “an inordinate amount of time for reviewing court filings from the Brooklyn Federal Court and the U.S. Court of Appeals.” Cardozo added that nearly 10 percent of the expenses were involved with that category of work.

Cardozo also took a shot at Cohen for billing $100,000 for “reviewing recruiting in other jurisdictions.”

Garaufis ruled previously that the Fire Department of New York discriminated against minorities in its entrance exam, saying black and Hispanic applicants had disproportionately failed the written examinations and those who passed were placed disproportionately lower down the hiring lists than whites.

City Corporation Counsel Michael Cardozo called the opinion “erroneous” and said, “When all the proceedings have been completed, the damages, if any, that the city will have to pay will be far less than $128 million.”

The judge appointed Mark Cohen, a former federal prosecutor and an old acquaintance of his, as independent monitor in October to keep an eye on the department’s effort to improve diversity in recruiting officers. In January, the city filed a brief asking an appeals court to remove the judge, saying he had abandoned his neutral role.

At the bottom of the second page of the city’s filings, Garaufis scrawled, “The court has reviewed the city’s objections to the court monitor’s third statement. The city’s objections are overruled. So ordered.”

Both Cardozo and Mayor Michael Bloomberg say they will continue fighting the court case, moving on to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.

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