msnbc.com staff and news service reports
updated 1/4/2011 8:24:14 PM ET 2011-01-05T01:24:14

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.

The official said prosecutors in 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.

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Halloran met with prosecutors in the office of U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch on Tuesday, according to Bloomberg news service.

"He told them a minority of supervisors asked or ordered their employees to engage in a slowdown, and go down the street with their plows up, as several residents said they observed," Halloran's spokesman Steven Stipes told Bloomberg.

The official says 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.

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

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

The City Council is expected to hold hearings on the blizzard response on Jan. 10.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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