After an investigation of New York City’s lifeguard program uncovered it to be rife with misconduct, a member of the Department of Investigation (DOI) has filed suit arguing his push for action against the corruption led to his untimely termination.
Danny Dalton, 66, was an assistant inspector general with NYC’s DOI which he had joined in 2019 after leaving the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration where he served as an agent. Now, according to a suit filed in Manhattan Federal Court, Dalton said despite complaints to the city’s Public Advocate and City Council in May 2021, the “DOI fired him with no explanation” in August 2021.
“They knew there was a huge problem and they just kept kicking the can down the road,” the former inspector general told the New York Post.
As the suit asserted, the investigation outlined, “sexual misconduct, negligence and a lack of accountability with the program, posing a significant risk to public safety,” but nothing was ever done to address the problems.
This was an ongoing theme as presented by the latest DOI report that explained: “In the 1990’s, for example, an earlier DOI investigation into the Lifeguard Division found mismanagement, union interference, and deficient recordkeeping. At the time, DOI recommended changes to the lifeguard supervisory structure, as well as additional recommendations that sought to improve DPR oversight of the Division. However, these recommendations were not fully implemented.”
The mismanagement extended further than poor record keeping however as a June 2020 profile in New York magazine laid out how, in the 80s for instance, corpses would be found in pools or there would be “body parts washing up on beaches” as lifeguards were equally “out of control.”
“They ordered kegs at pools and tapped them while on duty,” the piece detailed. “Coney Island guards threw cocaine-fueled parties and made T-shirts that read WE DRINK, YOU SINK.”
The debauchery didn’t end in the 80s as partying led to allegations of sexual assault and negligence believed to have resulted in numerous drownings over the decades. Much of this corruption was under the supervision of union leader Peter Stein who started with the New York Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) in the 1960s as a lifeguard at the age of 15.
According to at least one lifeguard who spoke to New York magazine, “His thing is about power, being in control.” The individual went on to say, “F*cking with people’s lives. I think [Stein] gets off on that.”
In other instances, bribes were allegedly accepted to ensure lifeguards who wanted to be on the inside would get passing marks on their swim tests, and “Lifeguards who complained about lax safety standards were targeted,” including failures and reassignments to unwanted posts.
“DOI found that DPR does not exercise sufficient oversight of Lifeguard Division operations…Some witnesses also described the unions and, in particular Peter Stein, the president of one of the local lifeguard unions, as resistant to management changes,” the report went on to assert of a union leader who now makes more than $200,000 per year.
“New York City itself is a very political place. A Big Apple cart, but it’s all pretty rotten,” Dalton told the Post. For his efforts to see the investigation through to solutions, he is now seeking unspecified damages after his termination and is working for DoorDash to “to make ends meet.”
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