April 25, 1997

Image of today's outrage

New York City has 58 elevator inspectors. How many of them have been taking bribes?

Well, we all know corruption exists, so maybe one or two?

Well, we are talking about the Rotten Apple, so maybe four or five?

Would you believe all 58?

A corruption probe has resulted in the suspension of 40 of the inspectors, but sources say that nearly everyone was involved in systemic, department-wide corruption. A typical employee received $30,000 a year in bribes. The investigation resulted in hours of videotape showing inspectors stuffing envelopes of cash into drawers and accepting payoffs all over town.

You might imagine that the inspectors were being bribed to overlook defects in elevators. Nothing so simple as that in the byzantine world of Gotham business and politics. In fact, building owners were often so desperate to get inspections done that they had to bribe inspectors to do their job and make the inspections in a timely manner. And some repair companies bribed the inspectors to say that there were problems, when in fact none existed. More work for the repair company, you see.

The inspectors often referred to the bribes as “birthday presents.” You’ve got so many birthdays you must be 150 years old, said one elevator company executive.

(Source: New York Daily News.)

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