NEW YORK — The fired head of the New York City Housing Authority's elevator division said in an exclusive interview with PIX11 that he was let go as retaliation for telling the truth.
Ivo Nikolic was in charge of over 3,000 elevators inside 326 NYCHA public housing developments. He was fired after an investigation found three inspectors, on his watch, allegedly falsified reports claiming to have done preventative maintenance on elevators.
“I want to clear my name and save my reputation and my career,” said Nikolic, who headed the division from 2016 until February of this year.
He started the job in April of 2016, just five months after an 84-year-old Bronx man was killed stepping out of an elevator at the Boston Road Plaza development. The elevator allegedly jerked upward and the man fell, crushing his skull.
Nikolic's lawyer says NYCHA gave no reason beyond citing dissension among employees.
“I believe it was retaliation to prevent me from further cooperating with an investigation,” said Nikolic.
An investigation by the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office began after three supervisors under Nikolic allegedly submitted reports saying elevator maintenance was done, when it really wasn’t. One case was resolved with a guilty plea. The others are ongoing. Nikolic was not implicated at all.
“I was told not to focus on preventative maintenance, to only focus on outages," he said. "It’s a catch 22. If you don’t do preventative maintenance, then you have more elevator outages."
He was suspended in February after an anonymous e-mail accused him of sexist, racist and anti-Semitic rants. But an investigation by the city Department of Equal Opportunity cleared him. Nikolic is now suing NYCHA for wrongful termination and damages to his reputation.
In a statement, NYCHA tells PIX11 News, “We believe Mr. Nikolic's claims are meritless, but he has every right to contest his termination."
And NYCHA disputes any claim elevators aren't being maintained. It says each elevator has two annual inspections and that the annual number of accidents has steadily declined since 2015, from 18 to just seven last year.