By Gabriela Resto-Montero
MANHATTAN — Allegations that some sanitation workers sabotaged the clean-up efforts following a mammoth blizzard last week as retaliation for recent budget cuts are now being investigated by federal prosecutors, the New York Post reported.
The Brooklyn U.S. Attorney's Office will investigate whether sanitation workers deliberately slowed down efforts or broke the law by padding overtime pay, the Post reported. Several workers were captured on camera taking breaks at Dunkin' Donuts when they were supposed to be clearing the streets, the paper reported.
The city has also launched its own multi-borough investigation into the matter.
"DOI is attacking this wide-ranging investigation on several fronts, including examining relevant data, such as sanitation attendance records, issues related to equipment and personnel, and specific anecdotes received from the public," DOI Commissioner Rose Gill Hearn said in a statement Wednesday. "DOI is also targeting areas where there has been a high-degree of concern regarding the plowing of snow."
The commissioner added that the agency welcomed the inquiries launched by other offices.
Another investigation, led by the Medical Examiner's office, is looking into how many deaths were directly caused by the city's slow response to clean-up, according to the Post.
A 66-year-old man was found frozen to death on a subway platform during the storm last Monday and a Queens infant died while waiting for an ambulance that was stuck in the snow, according to reports.
The City Council will weigh in on the snow controversy in a series of at least five hearings analyzing the city's response, the New York Daily News reported.
The first of the meetings, held Monday, will focus on why the city did not call a snow emergency and why first-response vehicles like ambulances and buses were stuck in the snow.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg's whereabouts at the time of the storm have also drawn scrutiny, with the mayor's office acting coy about which deputy mayor was at the helm at the time of the storm, the News reported.
Although City Hall would not disclose Bloomberg's location during the storm, the News reported that deputy mayor Stephen Goldsmith was in Washington and Howard Wolfson was in London.
"You can focus on who was here, whether this person was here," Wolfson said to NY1. "The bottom line is, we didn't do the job. Had we done that, nobody would be asking questions about where the mayor was."
A contrite Bloomberg said the city made mistakes in its response to the blizzard at a Tuesday press conference, openly disagreeing with Department of Sanitation commissioner John Doherty's glowing assessment of his agency's snow removal effort.
"I would give our grade as unacceptable," Bloomberg said. "We're gonna try to figure out why and make it better."