City officials are urging an investigation into Louis Molina, the outgoing head of New York City jails, following claims from a former deputy that he and his appointees concealed violence and retaliated against those exposing misconduct. Ruben Benitez, a 19-year veteran of the city jails department, filed a notice of intent to sue the city, alleging that Molina demoted him after reporting department misconduct. Benitez, previously appointed acting deputy commissioner of investigations, asserts violations of state law protecting employees from retaliation and city corruption rules.
Sarena Townsend, Benitez’s attorney, emphasized that the legal action became necessary due to relentless corruption. Molina, set to leave the jails department for a City Hall promotion, faces scrutiny as City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams and Criminal Justice Committee Chair Carlina Rivera call for an investigation into the allegations. The inquiry is sought by relevant authorities, including the Department of Investigation, the Bronx district attorney’s office, the state attorney general’s office, and the U.S. attorney’s office.
Benitez accuses Molina and former aide Manuel Hernandez of obstructing investigations into violence and the use of force by correction officers at Rikers Island. Benitez claims his demotion and a $40,000 pay cut were retaliatory measures to silence him and allow Molina to continue illegal behavior covertly. The legal claim suggests Molina changed department policy, requiring his approval for the suspension of correction officers, and sought the removal of court-appointed federal monitor Steve Martin overseeing Rikers conditions.
Former Assistant Corrections Commissioner Keith Taylor deems the allegations disturbing, possibly warranting a federal investigation if proven true. City Hall spokesperson Kayla Mamelak refrained from commenting on the pending lawsuit but defended Molina’s authority to make staff changes. Townsend, who formerly led investigations for the Department of Correction, calls for a criminal investigation and states that Benitez seeks punitive damages exceeding his $40,000 pay cut. The city faces the risk of losing authority over its jail system, with Martin expressing a loss of faith in the current administration’s ability to improve safety and transparency at Rikers.