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Black Cop Loses Bid To Join PBA Board

June 26, 1995

The Patrolmen's Benevolent Association lost its chance last week to elect its first black board member when Warren Binford III was defeated, and defeated badly.

Binford's candidacy for Queens South financial secretary had been endorsed by the union leadership. There is only a sprinkling of blacks among the union's 540 delegates and no black representation in its top leadership positions. Newly elected PBA President Lou Matarazzo called Binford, a delegate since 1987, "the most qualified candidate" in his three-man race.

While union endorsement is usually tantamount to election, cops turned out in heavier numbers to vote against Binford in his Queens district than turned out in the two other PBA races around the city. More than half of eligible PBA members cast votes in Binford's race, while fewer than one-third of all ballots were returned citywide.

At Friday's union meeting at Terrace on the Park to announce the election results, a delegate from the 25th Precinct told Matarazzo that the low turnout reflected an anti-PBA and anti-NYPD sentiment. The most recent manifestation of this is an apparent PBA acquiescence in the department's strong-arm methods of investigating last month's Washington, D.C., incident, in which drunken cops ran wild in a number of hotels.

"I'm very disappointed," Binford said Friday of the election. "I was naive. I thought they liked me. The membership let me down."

Binford blamed his defeat on the low turnout and his association with the PBA's leadership. Nonetheless, Bill Genet, another PBA-backed candidate running for citywide trustee, won handily. And although the troubled, PBA-backed Tony Abbate, in and out of hospitals over the past month, also lost his race for Brooklyn South financial secretary, he ran a strong second in a four-man field.

"I've always been a PBA man first," Binford said. "In the future, I'll look out for my own best interests. I know the Guardians have been criticial of me."

The criticism of him by the Guardians, the black police fraternal organization, reached a crescendo two years ago after Binford joined a small group of black officers who participated in the union's oft-criticized demonstration at City Hall against then-Mayor David N. Dinkins. After Dinkins accused the demonstrators of using racial slurs, including brandishing a sign that called him a "washroom attendant," Binford said at a PBA-sponsored news conference that he had heard no such slurs.

That earned him the sobriquet in the Guardians' newsletter of "a modern-day house Negro . . . summoned by the PBA massa."

Unfortunately for Binford and his PBA bosses, he was opposed by Tony Keller, a delegate from Queens' 103rd Precinct, who is well-enough regarded that he was Printable versionprofiled earlier this year in the union's house organ as a "Most Valuable Veteran." Last year he was voted cop of the year by 103rd Precinct officers.

In the end, Keller, who said during the campaign that race should play no part in the election, received 427 votes out of 2,050 balots sent out. Another candidate, George Farley, received 372 votes. Binford ran last, with 273 votes.

Wrapping it up. In a ceremony outside One Police Plaza last week, commemorating the department's absorption of the transit and housing police, the flags of those agencies were meticulously folded and wrapped as a final gesture of closure. To the transit police's last chief, Mike O'Connor, the symbolism was so painful that he left town to avoid the ceremony.

"I chose to go to Washington," said O'Connor. "I really didn't have a great understanding of the symbolic value of the retirement of flags. I guess I missed the point. Being there, I would have been in a quandary as to what role I would have played, whether I would be the tattooed man, bearded lady, sword-swallower or fire-eater. I was just too close to it to feel good about it."

Servicing one's own. Former PBA Vice President Tom Velotti has been approved by the police medical board for the department's lucrative three-quarters disability pension. Doctors decided Velotti, 63, and on paid leave from the NYPD for two decades because of his high-level union job, suffers from a heart ailment. Under the controversial heart bill, this qualifies Velotti for three-quarters of his salary, triple tax-free. The bill, pushed through the Legislature by the PBA, classifies virtually all heart-related illnesses as job-related, medical evidence notwithstanding. Still needed for approval: a vote by the pension board.

A new home for Cheryl. It's a new life in broadcasting for Cheryle Fiandaca, the wife of Police Commissioner William Bratton. Now she can say goodbye to John Jay College of Criminal Justice and its president, Gerald Lynch, who hired her more than a year ago as the college's $ 70,000-a-year director of something called "international training."

Fiandaca is a full-time commentator on ABC, appearing on WABC / Ch. 7's local Eyewitness News and on the ABC Radio network. On both, the former criminal defense attorney for 10 years discusses a seemingly never-ending subject, the O.J. Simpson trial.

Fiandaca, who began her television career without pay while at John Jay, declined to give her new salary.

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© 1995 Newsday, Inc. Reprinted with permission.