NEW YORK — A senior city buildings official signed off on crane inspections he didn't perform and helped crane operators cheat on licensing exams in exchange for thousands of dollars in bribes, but his actions do not appear to be connected to two recent fatal crane collapses, authorities said Friday.
James Delayo, acting chief inspector with the Department of Buildings' cranes and derricks division, was released without bail after he was arraigned Friday. He is charged with bribe receiving, tampering with public records, falsifying business records, filing a false instrument and receiving unlawful gratuities. He entered no plea and his lawyer, Lawrence Linzer, declined to comment.
Delayo accepted thousands of dollars in bribes over a period of several years from a crane company, Department of Investigation Commissioner Rose Gill Hearn said in a statement.
Delayo's actions apparently had no connection to two crane collapses this year that left nine people dead, Hearn said. Those cranes were both tower cranes, not the mobile cranes at the center of this investigation, although Delayo was also in charge of inspections for tower cranes.
It is troubling that an official responsible for ensuring that cranes are safe in New York City would be "selling out his own integrity in a way that compromised public safety," Hearn said.
City investigators did not identify the company that allegedly bribed Delayo, but said it was based on Long Island.
Prosecutors said Delayo had been taking bribes from the company since 2002, although the Department of Investigation said he had been accepting bribes for eight years. He received bribes of $200 to $500 for signing off on crane inspections he didn't perform, and as much as $3,000 for helping operators cheat on licensing exams, investigators said.
Officials said the city had been investigating the cranes and derricks division for several months, but the arrest stemmed from a tip investigators recently received after the state Inspector General issued a report about the licensing of crane operators by the state Labor Department.
No other city inspectors were charged Friday, but officials said the probe is ongoing.
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 from his job.
In Delayo's first year on the job, a 70-foot derrick boom that he reportedly inspected and "approved for use" collapsed at a construction site a week after the inspection, according to news reports at the time. A panel later blamed engineering deficiencies in the accident, which killed one person.
The charges represent another embarrassment for Mayor Michael Bloomberg's administration as it tries to quell the outrage over the two collapses, one at a midtown site in March and another last week on the Upper East Side. Nine people died in 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.
Acting Commissioner Robert Limandri said he was "outraged" by investigators' findings. He pledged to forge ahead with major reforms at the agency.
(This version CORRECTS Delayo's job title to "acting chief inspector".)