Employment Litigation

Restoring the Reputation of a Wrongfully Terminated Official

After the New York City investigations commissioner unjustly fired an inspector general, Walden Macht Haran & Williams stepped in to repair the damage done to her career. We successfully secured a recommendation for the official’s complete reinstatement as well as a formal letter of apology from the commissioner.

In March 2018, the commissioner of New York City’s Department of Investigation, Mark G. Peters, became embroiled in a power play with the Special Commissioner of Investigation for the New York City School District. Peters implemented a series of top-level administrative changes – including shifting around titles and responsibilities – that he claimed fell under his purview, even though the office had always operated independently.

Under Peters’ new infrastructure, Anastasia Coleman – a former senior assistant district attorney in Brooklyn who had been appointed to head the office only weeks prior – received a lesser title and lost the authority to sign subpoenas, compel testimony, and publish reports. When Coleman challenged Peters’ conduct in a memo to the city’s chief legal officer, Peters immediately fired her.

Coleman turned to WMHW for legal assistance. We brought her claims of misconduct to Peters’ attention, who hired former federal prosecutor James G. McGovern to conduct an independent whistleblower investigation in hopes it would exonerate him. Six months later, the investigation concluded that complaints made by Coleman and a colleague who was also fired were substantiated. McGovern recommended that Peters cede control of the office and restore the whistleblowers to their former positions with back pay.

Coleman’s lawyer, WMHW partner Milt Williams, subsequently released a statement decrying Peters’ actions. “She has had to sustain needless damage to her reputation and career,” he said. “I hope now moving forward that Miss Coleman will receive the respect that she deserves.”  Peters’ employment was terminated by Mayor Bill de Blasio in November 2018 for inappropriate conduct.

‘I was really struck by Anastasia Coleman repeatedly and respectfully asking whether what was being asked of her was illegal,’ de Blasio said [after firing Peters in November 2018]. ‘And of course the denigrating approach toward her and other employees was unacceptable.’


Media Coverage

“Fight to Control Office That Roots Out Corruption in New York Schools,” The New York Times (March 16, 2018)

“Seeking Control, Investigation Chief Fires Schools’ Special Commissioner,” The New York Times (March 30, 2018)

“Chief Watchdog Misused Power and Punished Whistle-Blowers, Inquiry Finds,” The New York Times (October 11, 2018)

“NYC Investigations chief apologizes and admits he overstepped his bounds in agency power play,” New York Daily News (October 15, 2018)

“De Blasio ousts city’s top watchdog, admits hiring Peters was a ‘mistake,’” Politico (November 16, 2018)