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There Was No Conspiracy Buried Under All That Snow

By Murray Weiss | January 14, 2011 10:39am
A snow plow stands parked outside of City Hall after the blizzard of 2010.
A snow plow stands parked outside of City Hall after the blizzard of 2010.
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DNAinfo/Jill Colvin

By Murray Weiss

DNAinfo Contributing Columnist

Let’s get an important issue out of the way on the Great Blizzard of 2010.

There is no evidence of an orchestrated slowdown, job action or criminality by any sanitation workers or supervisors in Manhattan or in any of the outer boroughs during the snowstorm that crippled the city weeks ago.

Two of the city's district attorneys, Brooklyn's U.S. Attorney and the city’s Department of Investigation each launched probes into the sensational claims that there was a conspiracy designed to protest budget cuts by Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

The feds said they would take any conspiracy case that involved fraud to inflate overtime pay. City prosecutors planned to handle any charges involving violations of the state's Taylor Law, which forbids strikes and job actions by municipal employees.

But don't hold your breath for any legal drama. There is nothing to prosecute, my sources say.  Nada.

No one has come forward to investigators since the storm with the names or hard information to back-up the claims of a slowdown that were widely spread through the media.

And prosecutors opened their doors wide open for them. They even sent investigators to the office of Queens City Councilman Dan Halloran, who started all this by saying he heard of the slowdown from guilt-ridden workers themselves.  Well, it seems Halloran may have gotten ahead of himself — he's backpedaling quickly.

He originally said five city workers came to him. When investigators visited him, he named two city Department of Transportation workers. Let's just say they basically contradicted his account, and leave it at that.

The three other city workers worked for Sanitation, he maintained. They came to him for legal representation, so he can't provide their names because of attorney-client privilege.

The prosecutors' original plan was to gather evidence and then hold a strategy session nearer the end of the month to share information, determine whether there is a case and decide which jurisdiction would be the best to prosecute the wrongdoers and slackers. 

But unless some smoking guns turn up suddenly there will be no charges brought against anyone.

The lesson here is to never underestimate the role of incompetence in dissecting why something goes terribly wrong.

Harry Nespoli, the straight-talking Sanitation workers president, summed it up at the City Council hearing when he said the storm simply "got ahead of us.’"

And that's because the city was behind the storm from the beginning, with the mayor reportedly jetting off to Bermuda for the Christmas holiday, and his new deputy mayor, Stephen Goldsmith, who oversees police, sanitation, and fire, was heading to his Washington townhouse to spend the holiday with his wife.

Does anyone think that any official left behind would be in a rush to declare a state of emergency that would force Hizzoner and the deputy mayor back to the city?

And as they dithered, the snow piled-up. Buses were caught. Cars were stalled. Plows were stuck. Streets became impassable. The storm "got ahead of us," yet Goldsmith was texting gushing praise for the snow removal — from Washington.

Finally, when the television screens in Bermuda became so fuzzy from images of real snow, the mayor returned. His "Let Them Eat Cake" attitude about seeing a Broadway show only added salt to the wound, not to the roadways. And his misleading cat-and-mouse game about his whereabouts during the storm was awful.

Shouldn’t a citizenry buried up to its collective eyeballs in snow expect a straight answer from the mayor on his whereabouts and involvement during the blizzard? 

Bloomberg spent $100 million of his own money on overturning term limits and an election to continue to run the city. Maybe he should stay around during the next crisis. New York is great place to vacation. Just look at all the tourists.