More than five months after allegations surfaced blaming a union slowdown for the city’s bungled response to the crippling December 26 blizzard, New York City’s Department of Investigation released a 47-page report saying there is no evidence indicating an organized union action brought the city to a halt.

The report, issued Friday, was the culmination of testimony from 150 witnesses, as well as video and photos from city dwellers, in response to allegations by Councilman Dan Halloran. The Queens pol claimed a handful of Sanitation Department personnel came clean to him in private meetings. He refused to name all but two of the employees, and the two he named told investigators they did not reach out to the councilman, nor did they tell him there was a slowdown in effect.

“In toto, Mr. Halloran’s information about city employee statements contributed no actual evidence about a possible slowdown,” the report concluded.

Without testimony from DSNY personnel, investigators could not find sufficient evidence to prove the allegations, though they did note systemic failures and instances of abuse or inefficiencies during the blizzard cleanup.

In at least a half dozen instances among hundreds reviewed, investigators did find that trucks were idle or operators were driving with the plow raised for no apparent reason. Using city-owned surveillance cameras as well as photos and video obtained by residents, investigators also found several cases in which drivers left their vehicles to buy beer or coffee, though noted that those trucks were usually stuck. Those found buying alcohol while on the job are now facing disciplinary charges, the union told the New York Times.

Other deficiencies included a controversial decision to halt street salting, the use of fragile snow chains, and the failure to declare a snow emergency – all of which hampered the cleanup effort, investigators concluded. Investigators also recommended expanding the use of surveillance cameras and GPS, as well as reviewing the protocol for stuck DSNY vehicles, as possible remedies in the future, either for reducing complications or evaluating efficiency after the storm.

Overall, the report appears to vindicate the embattled Sanitation union, which became a whipping boy for anti-union advocates nationwide.

“The report confirms my contention that the members of this union would never participate in an organized action that puts our city and its people at risk,” Harry Nespoli, the president of the sanitation workers union, said in a statement reported by the Times.

Councilman Halloran, though, is now facing heat for stoking flames by misdirecting residents’ anger towards the union.

In a Saturday editorial, the Daily News said of Halloran’s claims: “every bit of it was a lie.”  They wrote:

As for big-mouthed, publicity-loving Halloran, DOI concluded that his account of being tipped off by supervisors was bogus to the core. The two men swore under oath that they had never told Halloran anything remotely like the fantastic tale that put him on the front page.

They also testified that Halloran attempted to badger them into supporting the slowdown fable – which they refused to do.

Halloran also purported to have other whistleblowers. He has refused to name them for the grand jury. Of course he did, because they surely do not exist. This guy is unfit for office.

Halloran, meanwhile, is sticking by his claims. He said the absence of evidence is not the evidence of absence, saying that the report did not “come to any definite conclusion” about a union slowdown.

“I am proud that my constituents felt I would have the courage of my convictions to take on the city,” Halloran said in a statement reported by the Times. “They expect me to stand up for them and be their voice and I am going to keep doing that.”

The half-dozen or so cases of individual, isolated abuse identified by the report will face further investigation, the report noted.

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  • http://www.njluxurymotors.com Arthur Borko

    150 Witnesses? That’s it? Out of the thousands that work for Sanitation and Millions that live in the city they only interviewed 150?

    The thing I don’t get is that NYC is no stranger to Blizzards or Nor’Easters. The city is pretty damned experienced in dealing with them. Over the years we’ve had disaster fort casted and averted because of how quickly the city got its act together. So wtf went wrong here? Yea, the mayor was out of town? So what? When he’s not here there’s supposed to be a clear line of succession and responsibility. Even so, It’s 2011. We have instant world wide communication, as if they couldn’t consult with him or get his go-ahead?

    I call fucking shenanigans. Either a single person is responsible or a group of people are. Even if it wasn’t intentional, someone didn’t do their job correctly and we got fucked, HARD.

    It seems to me they put on a little show for the public and whomever is really responsible is getting away with it.

    • http://twitter.com/nicktherat Nick the Rat

      i blame bloomberg… for everything

    • levp

      Not to dispute the rest of your comment, but 150 witnesses is about 4 days of non-stop testimonies (assuming 10 minutes each and nothing else done on those days).  Any more talking, and our libertarian friends would be screaming for this to end…

      Also, AFAIK DOI was not tasked to find the original reason behind the failed city response, just whether or not SDNY *employees* engaged in illegal work stoppage.
      Where was a management decision to prepare and position the plows and sand-spreaders *before* the storm started, like in the years past?  Silence from Bloomberg or his SDNY commissioner.

    • levp

      Not to dispute the rest of your comment, but 150 witnesses is about 4 days of non-stop testimonies (assuming 10 minutes each and nothing else done on those days).  Any more talking, and our libertarian friends would be screaming for this to end…

      Also, AFAIK DOI was not tasked to find the original reason behind the failed city response, just whether or not SDNY *employees* engaged in illegal work stoppage.
      Where was a management decision to prepare and position the plows and sand-spreaders *before* the storm started, like in the years past?  Silence from Bloomberg or his SDNY commissioner.

  • Anonymous

    I call bullshit. I don’t need corrupt investigation to tell me how their was no slow down. Screw you non plowing crews. I hope your wives are being plowed by the neighbors right now.

  • SunnyDays

    Investigate the investigators?

  • BrooklynBus

    I think I might have mentioned what a sanitation inspector told me he thought the problem was.  He struck up a conversation with me in January and was very friendly, so I thought I would bring up the subject.

    He said a lot of people retired through attrition and the snow cleaning force consisted of many newcomers, some of whom never plowed a street in their lives. They only received two weeks of training and were very ineffectual in moving snow because of inexperience.  To me that makes a lot of sense when you consider the high number of accidents with the snow plows and the numbers of plows getting stuck themselves.  

    Add to that the reduced labor force and the late start which I think was to cut down on overtime, and I think the picture gets clearer.  He also told me that it took them several weeks of on the job training to become proficient with their plows.  If that’s true, the situation should not be repeated even if we have a lot of snow next winter.

    • Anonymous

      I’ve got a nice bridge to sell you..real cheap!

      • Anonymous

        So you believe it was sabatoge? You’d be surprised how government can screw up just by sheer stupidity without any sabatoge. Even if what I am saying is correct, it doesn’t make the City any less guilty because if there were many new untrained employees as alleged, the City should have been able to predict that two weeks training would be inadequate.  They are also guilty for the late start and allowing or encouraging too many people to retire and not willing to pay enough overtime to get the job done.