New York Daily News: MANHATTAN, By Graham Rayman – The Correction Department has a new man in charge of the sick leave system that is rife with abuse — and he’s been under investigation for two years for stealing time.

Assistant Deputy Warden Wayne Prince was named Friday to replace Warden Brian Calloway as commanding officer of the Health Management Division, Correction Department records show. The appointment, which has outraged the union representing assistant and deputy wardens, comes despite Prince being under investigation for allegedly signing off on his own overtime, the agency confirmed.

Prince now has direct oversight over the department’s sick leave system, which is at the root of an ongoing staffing crisis at Rikers Island. The division is in charge of vetting staff who say they are too sick to come to work. Among other duties, the division is supposed to visit the homes of officers who call in sick and track their medical appointments.

Assistant Deputy Warden Wayne Prince.

Assistant Deputy Warden Wayne Prince.

“This is like the fox guarding the henhouse,” a correction source said. “If they are looking for a soft place for this guy to land, you could put him anywhere but there.”

More than 1,400 correction officers are out sick at any given time, records show. The Daily News has repeatedly reported on egregious examples of officers abusing Correction Department’s unlimited sick leave policies, which come with full pay and benefits.

The federal monitor overseeing Rikers Island wrote on March 16 that more than 30% of the uniformed staff remains out sick or unavailable to work with detainees, with little change evident compared with August 2021 when the crisis prompted widespread alarm.

Prince, 42, had been a member of Correction Commissioner Louis Molina’s staff and worked at Correction Headquarters until the move wasannounced by Chief of Department Kenneth Stukes in a personnel order obtained by The News.

Correction sources said it’s almost unheard of for an assistant deputy warden with pending charges to be given such a position.

“It concerns me they would put someone who has been under investigation for stealing time in charge of a system that requires the utmost integrity and transparency,” said Sarena Townsend, the former Correction Department deputy commissioner for trial and investigations.

While serving as inspector general at the city Department of Investigation during the de Blasio administration, Dana Roth warned senior correction officials more than once not to give Prince access to sensitive material, three sources told The News.

Now, he has been placed in one of the most sensitive positions in the agency. The staffing crisis has left thousands of posts unstaffed and limited basic services for detainees, fueling dysfunction and violence at the jails.

Prince’s new job wasn’t advertised before his appointment, causing an uproar among the rank-and-file.

“This was just dropped in our laps with no warning and no discussion,” said Joseph Russo, the president of the union that represents assistant deputy wardens and deputy wardens. “Regardless of who got it, this was not done correctly or fairly.”

Russo said there are roughly 100 of his members qualified to apply for the job. He didn’t believe Molina was fully aware of the move.

“I will be asking for him to take a close look at this. I don’t believe this is him,” Russo said.

A Rikers Island juvenile detention facility officer walks down a hallway of the jail, Thursday, July 31, 2014, in New York.
A Rikers Island juvenile detention facility officer walks down a hallway of the jail, Thursday, July 31, 2014, in New York – Julie Jacobson/AP

Patrick Rocchio, a correction spokesman, confirmed the investigation into Prince’s alleged misconduct is ongoing. He declined to comment on personnel matters.

Prince declined comment on Sunday. “I feel this is intrusive of you to contact me. … There are policies and procedures that govern this sort of thing,” he said.

In 2008, Prince was charged with giving false and misleading testimony in a department investigation and docked 15 vacation days, records show. In 2013, he was docked five days for unauthorized use of department property for improper use of an agency vehicle.

The city Department of Investigation received an allegation Prince stole time in 2020. The watchdog agency investigated, then kicked the case to the Correction Department to resolve internally.

“This matter was reviewed by DOI and it was determined that it was most appropriately handled by DOC administratively,” Investigation Department spokeswoman Diane Struzzi said.

Prince was promoted in the meantime from captain to assistant deputy warden in 2021, but managed to avoid working in a jail, as is typical of most new officials at that level. Pending charges also typically complicate new assignments.

“You spend six to seven years in a jail, and you can’t get out, meanwhile this guy gets named to that position without working a day in a jail?” a correction source said. “Molina is going to end up with a mutiny on his hands if he doesn’t do something.”

Prince is among the highest overtime earners in the agency. In 2021, he made $205,862, which is $93,113 above his base salary of $112,749, records show.

The uproar seemed to have an effect because late Saturday, Russo told The News he spoke briefly with Molina and was told Prince’s appointment was “temporary” and that the job will be posted.

A correction spokesman didn’t reply to followup questions Sunday.

Top Feature Photo: Correction Commissioner Louis Molina – Barry Williams/for New York Daily News