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N.Y. City snow cleanup probed; Claims made of work slowdown

Federal prosecutors in New York are looking into claims sanitation workers sabotaged the city's snow cleanup after the post-Christmas blizzard, a law enforcement official said Tuesday.

The official said the U.S. attorney's office in Brooklyn opened a preliminary inquiry after a Queens city councilman contacted them. A city watchdog agency also is investigating.

Councilman Dan Halloran has said sanitation workers told him their supervisors made it clear workers who slacked off during the cleanup wouldn't be punished.

The official said public integrity prosecutors are looking into whether workers padded overtime and violated fraud statutes. The official wasn't authorized to speak about the inquiry and spoke Tuesday on condition of anonymity.

Keith Mellis, a spokesman for the city's Department of Sanitation, said it would not comment on an open investigation.

It took several days to plow the city streets after the storm dumped 20 inches of snow.

There was some speculation that the sluggish response stemmed from a work slowdown aimed at protesting a scheduled Jan. 1 cost-cutting move to demote 100 supervisors overseeing the plowing effort.

Two sanitation union bosses have said the slowdown rumors are false.

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Sanitation Commissioner John Doherty have both said they were concerned but didn't think there was any truth to the speculation.

The Sanitation Department faced continued criticism on Tuesday when a blog, Sheepshead Bites, reported that gravestones at a large Jewish cemetery had been knocked over and possibly damaged by a fence that fell under the weight of snow piled up against it by the city.

About a dozen gravestones might be affected, Yana Zhuravel told the Associated Press.

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