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Univ. of San Diego School of Law

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Monday, August 25, 2008

Unique investigative agency tackles NYC corruption

Battling_corruptionx NEW YORK — A little-known law enforcement agency -- the only one of its kind in the country -- has been behind some of the most sensational headlines to hit New York City over the last several years.

The city's Department of Investigation successfully investigated Bernard Kerik, former police commissioner and Homeland Security chief nominee. It exposed the largest tax fraud in municipal history, investigated corruption in the crane industry, and helped indict lawmakers, union bosses and numerous high-ranking city officials.

A relatively small outfit compared to its larger crime-fighting brethren like the FBI and the NYPD, the DOI's mission is daunting: keeping 300,000 city employees at scores of agencies honest as well as city-elected officials, boards, commissions, the school system and the housing authority.

It's the only municipal agency in the country designed to root out government graft.

The oft-overlooked agency was created more than a century ago in the wake of the Boss Tweed and Tammany Hall scandals that robbed taxpayers of millions of dollars and became synonymous with political corruption.

But the DOI, one of the nation's oldest law enforcement agencies, has been making a forceful case of late that it's not a relic of the past.

"We are now out there," said DOI Commissioner Rose Gill Hearn, who took the department's top job in 2002.

Under the leadership of Hearn, 46, a blunt former federal prosecutor, the DOI has moved aggressively to counter any impressions that it wasn't willing to tackle serious cases -- ones that could potentially embarrass a mayoral administration. [Mark Godsey]

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