Councilman Dromm’s ‘Thug’ Outburst Spurs COBA Call For Him To Resign

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By RICHARD KHAVKINE and RICHARD STEIER | The Chief Leader

A dispute last week between City Councilman Daniel Dromm and the head of the city’s largest correction-officer union about solitary confinement has led to a call for punitive sanctions—in the form of the Queens lawmaker's resignation.  

The exchange between Mr. Dromm and Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association President Benny Boscio started typically enough, if a tad testily, during the Council’s Dec. 11 Criminal Justice Committee hearing on legislation sponsored by the Councilman that would curtail the use of inmate isolation in city jails. 

Push Comes to 'Thug'

 

The two began by sparring over the meanings of the phrases “solitary confinement,” and “punitive segregation.” The usual question-and-answer format of a Council committee hearing then devolved into insults and counter-charges, with the Councilman calling Mr. Boscio a “thug” and the COBA head telling Mr. Dromm that he knew little about jails. 

Five days later, the correction union responded with a full-page ad in the New York Post calling for the Councilman to leave office. 

“RESIGN NOW!” the copy read below a black-and-white mug of Mr. Dromm and smaller color photos documenting, in near-gruesome detail, injuries sustained by Correction Officers, presumably at the hands of inmates.  

Echoing a memorable Page 1 headline from the other city tabloid, the ad’s copy continued: “Councilman Danny Dromm to NYC Correction Officers: Drop Dead.” 

Accusations Fly

The testy 6-minute exchange came three hours into the hearing. It followed testimony from Department of Correction officials, Mr. Boscio and six Correction Officers who, in an effort to counter advocates’ contention that punitive segregation amounted to torture, recounted violent episodes they had experienced on the job. 

“Let me start off by saying how my heart goes out to those corrections officers who were attacked,” Mr. Dromm, who has represented Jackson Heights and Elmhurst in the Council since 2009, said before engaging Mr. Boscio. “Nobody, as [Committee Chairman Keith Powers] has stated, wants to see that happen to people who are serving the City of New York.”

Soon enough, however, the two were speaking over each other, and accusations took flight, with first Mr. Dromm saying that he had a hard time taking COBA seriously “because of its long record of corruption,” and then Mr. Boscio telling the Councilman, “you don’t know enough about what’s going on in jail.” 

“I know enough, sir and I have oversight over your jails,” Mr. Dromm retorted. 

In a bid to perhaps defuse what threatened to descend into rhetorical chaos, Mr. Boscio invited Mr. Dromm to tour Rikers, “anytime you like, unannounced, of course.”

 

'I Don't Listen to Thugs'

The Councilman, possibly not having recognized the proposition, said “I don’t listen to thugs.” He then added: “You can be as much of thug as you want to be, but you bother me, you don’t bother me.”

Calmly, Mr. Boscio responded: “I’m not trying to be a thug, sir.” 

Disregarding him, Councilman Dromm said he was “here to help people” while Mr. Boscio, he claimed, was responsible for harm inside the jails. 

“You and me can have a difference of opinion,” the union leader replied, then recited statistics he said reflected why punitive segregation had to remain in place. “And those numbers don’t lie,” he said. 

Mr. Dromm, though, implied that the blame lay with jail employees, saying, “So your officers are doing something wrong; that’s got to be the reason.”

Mr. Powers then called an end to the war of words. 

‘Surprised’

Speaking a few days later, Mr. Boscio said he was taken aback by the Councilman’s "thugs" reference. "Absolutely it surprised me. I've never been called a thug in my life,” he said.  

He said that remark and others Mr. Dromm made during the hearing showed, "He's totally biased. This was like a predetermination" rather than a hearing aimed at getting all sides on the issue.

Mr. Dromm’s office did not return phone and email messages seeking comment from the Councilman.