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Koch: Lay Off The Commish

February 27, 1995

The next flashpoint between Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and Police Commissioner William Bratton may turn on John Miller's successor as Deputy Commissioner for Public Information - and the process by which he (or she) is selected.

Expanding on comments by his press secretary Cristyne Lategano that City Hall should select Miller's successor, Giuliani said last week: "Bratton will make proposals to me. If we don't agree, we'll look for a different person. That's the way it's traditionally been."

Former Mayor Edward I. Koch - who says he's still a Giuliani fan despite a falling out after police tore down Pataki election posters and Bratton blamed some in the Hasidic community for putting them up - disagrees. "Rudy's dead wrong," Koch says. "The idea that he decides on a press secretary for his police commissioner is ridiculous, crazy."

"The police department is a special agency," says Koch. "The police commissioner should have the final decision."

Koch's police commissioner, Robert McGuire, even hired Alice McGillion, press secretary to Mario Cuomo, who had run against Koch for mayor. "I wouldn't have hired her for myself," said Koch, "but I didn't stop McGuire."

When Ben Ward succeeded McGuire, he chose to keep McGillion. "We never talked about it," said Koch. "It never came up."

Koch said he's concerned enough about Giuliani's attacks on Bratton that he wants to amend a bet he made - that Bratton would leave by year's end. Now, Koch is betting Bratton will leave "long before the end of the year."

"It looks like Rudy is driving him out. Whether intentionally or not, it's having that effect. Bratton is a proud and able man who's done a wonderful job. I cannot believe he will accept micromanagement from City Hall for any length of time."

Of Lategano's remarks last week criticizing the Police Department's press office and, by implication, Bratton, Koch said: "You cannot have people around the mayor embarrass your commissioner in public. His press secretary does not have the right or responsibility to publicly chastise the police commissioner. To humble, to seek to humble the police commissioner is to me incredible."

So, Lategano was asked, is the mayor forcing Bratton to resign? "The criticism was of the press office," she said, "not of the commissioner."

Decision on Otto? The Manhattan District Attorney's investigation into Officer Otto, the pseudonymous Internal Affairs informant, may hinge on whether Otto Printable versionreported his alleged crimes to his superiors as part of his undercover work.

Otto was the undercover officer the Mollen commission used to expose not only the 30th Precinct corruption but the department's Internal Affairs apparatus, which ignored Otto's corruption reports. Last month, the DA's office was set to arrest Otto, who is the former partner of 30th Precinct rogue cop George Nova, on perjury charges for lying about searches that led to convictions of two drug dealers. Prosecutors didn't realize Nova's partner was actually Otto, and only Commissioner Bratton's warning to Manhattan DA Robert Moregenthau scotched the arrest.

The DA then began investigating whether Otto reported his allegedly perjurious testimony to his superiors, which could then be considered part of his work for Internal Affairs. Authorities say he didn't.

Mending fences. While the world still awaits Commissioner Bratton's anti-corruption strategy, his newly-appointed Internal Affairs head, Chief Patrick Kelleher, has been quietly mending fences with the city's district attorneys who were upset by the sacking of Kelleher's predecessor, Walter Mack. Kelleher brought along First Deputy John Timoney and Jack Maple, the deputy commissioner for crime strategies, to meet with prosecutors in the Bronx and in Brooklyn, where Maple had his own fence to mend. It seems he "dissed" an assistant Brooklyn DA at a crime strategy meeting, prompting an angry letter to Bratton from the assistant's boss, Charles J. Hynes.

Kelleher also met with Queens District Attorney Richard Brown, who alone among the DAs had publicly criticized Mack's ouster. "He [Kelleher] is clearly a pro, impressive in terms of his knowledge and background of the department," said Brown.

Still crazy for Elaine's. So there was Bratton, with cronies Miller, Maple and chief of staff Peter LaPorte, celebrating wife Cheryl Fiandaca's birthday at Elaine's, the restaurant the mayor supposedly ordered Bratton to stay out of. But soon after Fiandaca's penne arrived, so did the newspaper photographers.

One person at the table contended the commissioner's dining at Elaine's displayed "independence" from the mayor, but then acknowledged that - media reports to the contrary - the mayor had never ordered Bratton not to eat there. Another dinner companion said the only person Giuliani had warned off Elaine's was his own press secretary, Lategano, who hasn't been spotted there since around Christmas.

"Flat out not true," Lategano sniffed.

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© 1995 Newsday, Inc. Reprinted with permission.