Stephen Nessen, Reporter, WNYC News
Stephen Nessen reports for the WNYC Newsroom and can often be heard live on Morning Edition.
The city has filed a lawsuit accusing the Correction Officers Benevolent Association and its head, Norman Seabrook, of unlawfully striking, by delaying buses from leaving Rikers Island Nov. 18 in order to prevent a prisoner from testifying against union members.
The lawsuit, filed Monday, asserts the union held up 33 buses that were intended to deliver inmates to various courtrooms and medical facilities across the city because the buses were “unfit for use.”
It calls this “subterfuge intended to protect the prosecution of other correction officers for illegal activity.”
On that day, an inmate was scheduled to appear in court to testify against two correction officers. That hearing has been adjourned to Dec. 5.
Norman Seabrook, who’s declined to comment on the lawsuit, said during his weekly radio show on WWRL last Friday that, “I have never, nor will I ever endanger a prisoner, an officer a civilian or anyone else.” The union hd been planning a press conference for Wednesday, but cancelled it Tuesday afternoon, saying it was still collecting information.
"We are confident that when completed, our investigation will establish that the city's allegations as set out in their complaint are entirely without merit and baseless," Seabook said in a statement.
The city claims none of the buses would have compromised safety.
At 6:45 a.m. on the day the buses were allegedly delayed, the city’s lawsuit claims that Seabrook and other members of the union were on Rikers Island near the transportation garage. Afterwards, the “pre-trip inspections” were conducted with “an unusually and overly meticulous adherence to technical standards…that did not, in fact, impact safety or security.”
About 1,000 inmates are transferred from Rikers Island each day, headed for various courts or to state prisons, according to the lawsuit.
UPDATED: with new information about the news conference being cancelled.