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Giuliani rewards political friend

March 11, 1996

Mayor Rudolph Giuliani may boast he's cutting city jobs, but he's just filled a position that's been vacant for the past three years.

The lucky job-seeker? The mayor's old police pal, Walter Alicea, who'll earn a city salary of $120,000 a year.

Alicea is a former third-grade detective whose last command was the elysian Central Park precinct squad. He also headed the department's Hispanic Society of police officers, which did some serious politicking during Giuliani's 1993 campaign against David Dinkins. For that, Alicea was rocketed to the position of Deputy Commissioner for Community Affairs at an annual salary of $87,000, a $35,000 pay raise.

Now he'll become the Housing Authority's new Deputy General Manager for Operations, a position vacant since December, 1993, when Dinkins left office. This time, Alicea's salary jumps another $33,000.

A city official describes his new job as a major operational position in an upcoming election where the Hispanic vote is a key consituency to Giuliani. "There are 600,000 people in public housing, many of whom are Hispanic. There are 150 community centers. This gives Alicea a tremendous latitude to move around. This is an enormous day-to-day operations job."

Alicea, of course, lacks an operations background. So why did Giuliani select him?

The city official cited three reasons:

First, Alicea will aide beleaguered and bad-tempered Housing Authority Chairman Reuben Franco, who's taken a recent beating over the series of stairwell-paint fires in the city's housing projects.

Second, many Hispanics in public housing - never targeted by Dinkins - are tender pickings in Giulaini's re-election campaign.

Third, it might well be time for the aggressive and abrasive Alicea to move on from the department, where he has made his share of enemies.

Says Alicea: "For me, this job is strictly a 'win-win' situation. It allows me to expand my portfoilio, to demonstrate I can also be a good manager." Rumors have even surfaced that he may be groomed to run the Authority itself, should Giuliani appoint Franco to a city judgeship.

Alicea also remains on leave from the police department, a perq allowing him to maintain his pension priviledges. Except now, the pension will be based on his new six-figure salary, not his baser detective's pay.

As for the Hispanic Society that brought Alicea to prominence, it appears to be in free-fall. Its president, his hand-picked successor Wanda Burgos, missed the last Society meeting Printable versionand for the past two weeks no one has answered the phone in her inspections unit of Alicea's Community Affairs Office. Meanwhile, a rogue organization of Latino cops drew more than 200 people last month to its most recent meeting.

The reason for the turnout, says the organization's First Vice President Rafael Collazo: "They [the Hispanic Society] sold the membership out for positions in the Giuliani administration."

Hair today, and tomorrow. The police department recently completed its routine end-of-probation drug testing for 2,000 cops hired in 1994. Seventeen turned up positive. In the past, an average of 10 probationary cops failed the test, 90 percent of those because of cocaine use.

The reason for the increase? The department's new, more-sensitive hair test. With the old-fashioned urine test, cocaine could be detected for up to 72 hours after snorting, marijuana for 30 days after smoking. With the hair test, the drugs hang around as long as the hair does.

The hope is that by putting out the word, future cops will be deterred from doping.

Why Dole? Ask Al. PBA President Lou Matarazzo couldn't find anything more praiseworthy to say about Kansas Sen. Bob Dole when he endorsed his presidential candidcacy last week than that Dole was a "lifelong civil servant."

So what was Louie's real reason for the endorsement?

Knowledgable sources say Matarazzo was returning a favor to the union's longtime patron and the state's major Dole backer, Sen. Alfonse D'Amato. And seated next to Matarazzo when he made his endorsement was D'Amato's gubernatorial protege, George Pataki, who Matarazzo felt merited thanks as well.

Despite Pataki's veto of the PERB bill - which will strenghten the PBA's hand in city contract negotiaitons - Matarazzo knew the governor did not lift a finger, as he could have, to block the legislature's override of his veto.

Louie knows what? Top brass were chuckling at the idea that Chief of Dept. Louie Anemone had been dispatched to Israel as a supposed anti-terrorism expert, as an aide to Police Commissioner William Bratton claimed last week. Said one bemused chief: "Oh, I always thought Louie's background was in narcotics." Said another, "Gee, I thought his background was the Bronx."

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Email Leonard Levitt at llevitt@nypdconfidential.com

© 1996 Newsday, Inc. Reprinted with permission.