Senior New York City crane inspector accused of corruption

Saturday, June 7, 2008

NEW YORK -- A senior city buildings official took bribes in exchange for falsely reporting that cranes had been inspected and that crane operators had been certified, but his actions did not appear to be connected to two recent crane collapses that killed nine people, authorities said Friday.

James Delayo, an assistant chief inspector with the Department of Buildings' cranes and derricks division, accepted thousands of dollars in bribes from a crane company, Department of Investigation commissioner Rose Gill Hearn said in a statement.

In return, he signed off on crane inspections he did not perform and helped crane operators cheat on licensing exams by providing questions and answers, the city said.

Delayo's actions apparently had no connection to two cranes involved in fatal collapses this year. Both of those cranes were tower cranes, not the mobile cranes at the center of the investigation into Delayo, she said.

Hearn said it is troubling that an official responsible for ensuring cranes are safe in New York City would be "selling out his own integrity in a way that compromised public safety."

Investigators did not identify the company that allegedly bribed Delayo. They said he had been taking the bribes for eight years.

Delayo, 60, has worked for the Buildings Department since 1982, a career that spans the administrations of four mayors and several buildings commissioners. The Department of Investigation said he earns $74,224 and faces suspension.

Delayo was released without bail after he was arraigned Friday on charges of bribe receiving, tampering with public records, falsifying business records, filing a false instrument and receiving unlawful gratuities. He entered no plea.

His lawyer, Lawrence Linzer, declined to comment.

The charges represent another embarrassment for Mayor Michael Bloomberg's administration as it tries to quell the outrage over the two collapses.

Bloomberg said in a statement that his administration has "zero tolerance for any corruption anywhere in city government," and said it was particularly deplorable that it occurred in an agency charged with protecting the public.

The mayor's last Buildings Commissioner resigned following the collapse of a crane in March that left seven people dead.

Acting Commissioner Robert Limandri said he was "outraged" by investigators' findings. He pledged to forge ahead with major reforms at the agency.

In Delayo's first year on the job, a derrick boom that he had reportedly inspected himself was involved in a fatal collapse on a construction site in midtown Manhattan. According to news reports, Delayo had inspected and "approved for use" the 70-foot derrick boom a week before it collapsed; a panel later blamed engineering deficiencies in the accident, which killed one person.

Mobile cranes move around on the ground and are smaller than tower cranes, which are fixed and typically assembled piece by piece at a construction site. On a large building project in the city, one might see one or two tower cranes and several other mobile cranes working down below.

Right now citywide, there are about 200 mobile cranes in operation and 26 tower cranes, according to the Department of Buildings.

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