Home News DOC Commissioner Maginley-Liddie fires investigations unit head

DOC Commissioner Maginley-Liddie fires investigations unit head


A former state prison union official brought in by ex-Correction Commissioner Louis Molina to help run the sensitive investigations unit was abruptly let go Monday by current Commissioner Lynelle Maginley-Liddie, the Daily News has learned.

The firing took place even though Wilfredo Perez had pending complaints with the department’s Equal Employment Opportunity office about the behavior of his boss, Deputy Commissioner Yvonne Pritchett, and about her handling of use of force investigations, Perez’s lawyer told The News.

Perez was a retired state correction lieutenant and vice president for the state corrections union for years before he replaced longtime chief investigator Ruben Benitez as associate commissioner of DOC’s Investigations Division in September.

In August, Molina had demoted Benitez to a job reviewing job applicants over a murky allegation he spoke with a correction captain who was under investigation.

In December, Benitez, a veteran investigator, filed a notice to sue, alleging the ex-commissioner ran a campaign to undermine court-ordered outside oversight of the jails and the demotion was retaliatory.

Perez was handed his walking papers and escorted from the building Monday morning, DOC sources said. The reason behind the move was not immediately clear.

DOC spokeswoman Shayla Mulzac said in a statement, “Effective today Wilfredo Perez is no longer with the Department.”

Correction Commissioner Lynelle Maginley-Liddie
DOC Commissioner Lynelle Maginley-Liddie.

Perez’s lawyer Rocco Avallone said the firing was retaliation for the complaints Perez filed against Pritchett for gender discrimination. He also wrote at least one internal memo alleging violations of DOC policy and guidelines laid down by the federal monitor tracking violence and staff uses of force, according to Avallone.

“Louis Molina thought he would be a good fit to help clean up DOC, and he bent over backwards to try to help and found investigations that were not properly done,” Avallone said. “My understanding is there were other people complaining about [Pritchett] as well. He wanted DOC to correction the mismanagement of the unit.”

Avallone said early on Pritchett ordered Perez to carry her purse to a car and made him open the door for her.  A few minutes later, Pritchett told the driver that they don’t make men like they used to, Avallone said.

“After that, he started being marginalized and she would assign his duties to subordinates,” the lawyer said.

He said Perez had been waiting for outcome of his complaints when he was summoned and learned he had been fired, and then escorted from the building. He was not given a reason for his termination, according to Avallone.

Perez previously served as vice president of the state Correctional Officers and Police Benevolent Association. He was also active with Molina in the National Latino Officers Association.

At the time his hiring was reported, observers questioned whether it was appropriate to have a former union official in charge of investigating misconduct by officers.

Sarena Townsend, a lawyer and former DOC deputy commissioner who represents Benitez in his civil claim, called Perez’s ouster a “vindication and moral victory” for her client.

“Molina demoted Mr. Benitez for reporting Molina’s illegal activities and hired his friend, the unqualified Mr. Perez in a pattern that has come to define Molina’s reign,” she said.

Molina’s hires “were nothing more than his accomplices, yes-men and fall guys, and provide no value to Maginley-Liddie or her Department,” said Townsend, who was fired by Molina in January 2022 for allegedly refusing his demand to drop misconduct cases against officers.

Benitez has yet to file a lawsuit.

 

 

Louis Molina is photographed on Dec. 16, 2021, at Brooklyn Borough Hall in Brooklyn.
Former DOC Commissioner Louis Molina. (Barry Williams for New York Daily News)

Molina announced he was moving to take a job at City Hall as an assistant deputy mayor under Deputy Mayor for Public Safety Philip Banks. On Dec. 8, Mayor Adams appointed Maginley-Liddie to replace him.

He was recently one of four finalists for the job of police chief of Oakland, Calif. On Friday, Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao announced Lubbock, Texas Police Chief Floyd Mitchell had been tapped for the post.

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