By Kevin Deutsch
A City Council member representing the Bronx must pay a $5,000 fine for having an NYPD Deputy Chief fix her traffic ticket, according to the city’s Conflicts of Interest Board.
Council Member Vanessa Gibson, then-chair of the council’s Public Safety committee, was pulled over by NYPD Officer Michele Hernandez in the 44th precinct in March 2014. She immediately phoned NYPD Deputy Chief Kevin Catalina, whom she knew through her work as committee chair.
Her traffic ticket, records show, was soon quashed.
“I used my City position to benefit myself,” Gibson admitted in a settlement made public by the Conflicts of Interest Board Thursday.
Still, Gibson denied using her cell phone while driving, and insisted she never actually asked the deputy chief for help with the ticket.
“I called the 44th Precinct’s Deputy Chief, who was off duty and at home, and informed him that the Police Officer had stopped my vehicle for using a cell phone while driving,” Gibson said in the settlement papers.
“I did not explicitly ask the Deputy Chief to intervene on my behalf.”
After getting pulled over, Gibson handed Hernandez her phone while the deputy chief was on the line. He told Hernandez that Gibson was head of the Public Safety committee, and that she should verbally reprimand the politician instead of issuing her a summons, Gibson told the board.
“The Police Officer did not issue a summons to me and instead admonished me,” Gibson said.
In legal papers, Hernandez said she was told by Catalina, the deputy chief, that Gibson “meets with the Mayor and Police Commissioner monthly in her role with the Public Safety Committee.”
“Please don’t write the summons,” she said Catalina told her, according to the records.
As part of her settlement with the board, Gibson acknowledged that “by seeking the intervention of an NYPD Deputy Chief with respect to a traffic summons, which intervention resulted in me not receiving that summons, I used my City position to benefit myself…,” board records show.
Neither Gibson nor Catalina could immediately be reached for comment.
As for Hernandez, she sued the city in 2016 over the ticket-fixing scheme, claiming Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark and three of her staff members used their positions to harass and intimidate her as a favor to Gibson.