Corruption sprouts with new construction
BY Brian Kates, DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER
The city's record construction boom spawned a wave of corruption.
The bribery arrests this month of six inspectors reputed to be Luchese crime family associates brought the toll of indicted Buildings Department employees to 37 since 2002, Department of Investigation records show.
That year the feds bagged 19 plumbing inspectors for pocketing hundreds of thousands in graft. Three had been acquitted on similar charges nine years before.
The federal case came a year after the agency's second in command, Barry Cox, was convicted on charges of taking freebies from an industry expediter.
In 2005, the assistant chief buildings inspector and two other agency employees were charged with taking payoffs. Two years later, another inspector was indicted for taking $17,000 in kickbacks. All pleaded guilty to lesser charges.
Two crane inspectors are awaiting trial on felony charges: James Delayo is charged with taking $10,000 in bribes, and Edward Marquette is accused of faking inspection of a tower crane that collapsed and killed seven people.
Mayor Bloomberg dumped Buildings Commissioner Patricia Lancaster last year amid outrage over the crane scandal.
Also from the Daily News:
Three of the six city building inspectors busted in a recent corruption sweep were hired even though they had rap sheets, a Daily News investigation found.
The issue has become more important in the wake of allegations that corrupt inspectors took cash to overlook violations or speed permits.
All Buildings Department job applicants must disclose any previous arrests and submit to background investigations that include fingerprinting and criminal database searches, spokesman Tony Sclafani said.
At least three inspectors, reputed associates of the Luchese crime family, were hired and promoted despite arrest records dating from the late 1980s and '90s.
The city either failed to uncover the prior arrests or chose to ignore them. Sclafani refused to say which.
"Red flags should have gone up," said City Councilman James Oddo (R-S.I.), head of of the Task Force on Operations and Improvement of the Buildings Department. "This agency was a cesspool for many decades. There has to be more accountability."
The three were among 29 defendants - including three other former building inspectors, several contractors and developers and a handful of reputed gangsters - arrested Oct. 1.