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Cristyne Lategano: Power Behind Throne

June 19, 1995

Following the subway crash on the Williamsburg Bridge two weeks ago, the mayor's communications director, Cristyne Lategano, chewed out a high-ranking police official at the crash site, police and City Hall sources say. The official's sin? Arranging a news briefing for reporters without clearing it with her.

But the official had checked with City Hall and was told that since Mayor Rudolph Giuliani was not coming to the bridge, it was OK to hold the briefing. City Hall sources say Lategano acknowleged to her staff she had overreacted but declined to call the police official to apologize. No one dared advise her otherwise. Everyone's afraid of her.

Lategano denies the incident occurred. But around One Police Plaza, she's not feared without reason. Lategano is credited with dismantling the entire Police Department public information office and for publicly criticizing Police Commissioner William Bratton, saying during his flap with Giulaini that Bratton needed "a reality check."

Police and other sources say she has been no less charitable to the cops on the mayor's security detail. They are said to be "scared stiff" of her.

A year and a half into the Giuliani administration, Lategano, 30, has developed such influence with the mayor that many at City Hall and One Police Plaza say she has usurped the position of Peter Powers - the first deputy and Giuliani's friend since boyhood - as the mayor's closest confidant. No one disputes Lategano is smart, works tirelessly and is single-minded in her dedication to the mayor. She also shares - and many say plays on - the mayor's disdain toward the media. As one insider said, "She jacks him up."

Lategano became Giuliani's press secretary with limited journalistic experience. After graduating from Rutgers University in 1987, she worked for a year as a spokeswoman in the Washington, D.C., office of U.S. Rep. Helen Bentley of Maryland, then for the Republican National Committee. In 1992 she worked for George Bush's New Jersey re-election campaign before joining the Giuliani mayoral campaign a year later.

On March 31 she was promoted (with a $ 25,000 raise) to the post of communications director, a position that didn't exist in previous mayoral administrations. Giuliani said of her then, "Cristyne has been doing at least two jobs . . . Since she has been performing both roles so well it made sense to recognize it with the promotion."

In her new position she no longer deals with reporters daily but is responsible for what Giuliani described as "developing communications strategy for the administration."

She is also responsible for Giuliani's public scheduling and "more or less" schedules herself to accompany the mayor to evening functions, she said. Her promotion Printable versionalso merited a newly converted basement office that is connected to the mayor's office through an inner door.

Three days before her promotion, an article in New York Newsday reported the mayor shopping with Lategano for a dress on a Sunday afternoon. In the past two months the mayor's wife, Donna Hanover Giuliani, has begun appearing more often in public with the mayor, though Lategano said Friday in an interview that it was "absolutely ridiculous to make a correlation" between Hanover's increased appearances and the article.

New York Newsday also reported last month that Giuliani's political strategist, David Garth, credited with playing a key role in Giuliani's 1993 election, recently told Giuliani to drop Lategano. Instead, Giuliani dropped Garth.

Both Lategano and Powers deny Garth criticized Lategano to Giuliani. "I know that never happened," Lategano said.

Insiders say Powers has since refrained from discussing Lategano with the mayor. Powers said: "There's no reason to discuss anything [about Lategano] with the mayor at all."

In an interview in her office, Lategano said of her critics: "A lot of people have their own agendas here."

She described her alleged flap on the Brooklyn Bridge with a police official as "absolutely crazy." Of her appearances with the mayor, she said, "He [Giuliani] prefers a press secretary with him at all times."

Rubes. The New York City Internal Affairs Conference at John Jay College of Criminal Justice brought national and international police corruption investigators here for two days. A glossy program was filled with bios of Commissioner Bratton and Internal Affairs Chief Pat Kelleher, as well as such local lights as Mayor Giuliani, New York's FBI head, James Kallstrom; Chief Assistant Bronx District Attorney Barry Kluger; and WCBS' Jerry Nachman. And on the brochure's last page, for all those visitors to the Big Apple, was an open space under the heading "Autographs."

Fainting. Lisa Caliandro, the Staten Island police officer at the heart of the latest NYPD contretemps, is now saying she wasn't drinking in Point Pleasant Beach, N.J., the night of the brawl between NYPD and local cops. Police euphemistically used the term "fainted" to describe what happened to her after she and her husband were arrested there. But, responding to a reporter's question about her drinking that night, Internal Affairs Chief Kelleher acknowledged that a more accurate description could be that Caliandro had "passed out."

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© 1995 Newsday, Inc. Reprinted with permission.