Mayor de Blasio’s replacement for the top city watchdog is a no-nonsense former federal prosecutor who vowed to be independent from Hizzoner.
Margaret Garnett, an executive deputy attorney general under acting-A.G. Barbara Underwood in the running to replace fired Department of Investigation chief Mark Peters, said she would never fold a city probe to make the Mayor happy.
“I can assure you that I will not be chilled,” she told the City Council on Monday. “And to the extent that anyone — Mr. Peters or the administration or otherwise — thinks that I will be intimidated or chilled, I think they will be sorely disappointed.”
Garett said nobody in de Blasio’s office had asked her, if she were to confirmed, to provide them with information about ongoing investigations.
“No, and if they had I would have withdrawn my name,” Garnett said.
Whatever Peters was looking into before he was fired, the Department of Investigation will keep on looking — assuming the investigation is “meritorious,” she said during a confirmation hearing.
The testimony comes after Peters — who Mayor de Blasio says he fired for abusing his authority based on an independent investigation into a whistleblower complaint — has argued he was really canned for his critical reports on issues like lead paint and because City Hall staff were spooked about future investigations.
“Any meritorious investigations underway at DOI will continue under my leadership,” Garnett said.
Peters — whose own independence was question at his City Council confirmation hearing, given his service as de Blasio’s 2013 campaign treasurer — bashed de Blasio after his firing, saying last week that the mayor had made a “late-night screaming phone call” in an effort to kill critical reports by DOI, which is supposed to be independent.
Garnett said she wouldn’t bend to any pressure from city officials to change or cover up a report or investigation.
“The first thing I’d do is hang up the phone. I don’t mean to be flip, I’m sorry,” she said, adding she thinks it is “important” to listen to stakeholders in an investigation — which could include city officials like commissioners or mayor’s office staff.
“But what’s vitally important for DOI’s work and its ability to do that work is that the ultimate decision be driven by the independent professional judgement of the DOI commissioner with the advice of the career staff at DOI,” she said.