January 5, 2011 / 6:34 PM / 9 years ago

Federal investigation underway in New York snow controversy

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A federal investigation is underway to determine if sanitation workers were deliberately slow in removing snow from last week’s massive blizzard, officials said on Wednesday.

The city faces mounting complaints about its response to the December 26 blizzard that pummeled New York and nearby regions. That’s when City Councilman Dan Halloran said a group of sanitation workers confessed to him they were told by supervisors to purposely slack off in cleaning the snow.

A source in the office of the U.S. Attorney for New York as well as Halloran’s office confirmed an investigation into the matter had begun.

“The councilman is very happy to see that federal investigators are taking this matter as seriously as he does,” Halloran spokesman Steven Stites said.

Sanitation workers union officials could not be immediately reached for comment on Wednesday, although they have previously denied there was any slowdown in snow removal efforts.

Halloran told Reuters last week he was informed sanitation supervisors gave the slowdown orders to protest the city’s plans to demote 100 of them and other budget cuts.

“They (sanitation workers) were told they should take their time,” he said.

“If they missed a street, don’t worry about it. It would be okay because no one would be on top of them.”

Both Mayor Michael Bloomberg and City Sanitation Commissioner John Doherty have publicly called for investigations into the alleged slowdown.

Prosecutors in Brooklyn and Queens have launched investigations of their own. The Brooklyn prosecutor’s office said Wednesday their investigation was prompted by a YouTube video that showed sanitation workers hanging out for hours at a doughnut shop when they should have been cleaning up snow.

The City Council’s Committee on Oversight and Investigations is scheduled to meet Monday to evaluate the city’s response to the snowstorm.

Reporting by Aman Ali; Editing by Jerry Norton

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