Pals: McAlary and Timoney
June 10, 1996
Ex-police Capt. Steve Davis, master of ceremonies at ex-Commissioner Bill Bratton's farewell bash at the Hilton last week, introduced ex-First Deputy John Timoney as a man whose speech was difficult to understand but whose remarks could be read the next day in Mike McAlary's column in the Daily News.
It was McAlary, of course, who reported Timoney's now famed utterance after learning he'd been passed over, that the new Commissioner Howard Safir was a "lightweight." That remark left a pall over a superlative career. It also led Safir to demand that Timoney apologize to the mayor, who, vindictive as ever, ordered Timoney from Police Plaza and tried to cut his pension by $19,000.
Since then, Timoney's cronies have criticized McAlary for having printed Timoney's quote, knowing it would harm him. Timoney, though, close to McAlary at least since becoming chief of department in 1994, has drawn even closer to him since the incident. He now says he specifically told McAlary he was speaking on the record and says he's glad he spoke out as he did.
"I had resigned anyway," he said recently. "My remark caused me no harm." In fact, Timoney managed to leave the department with his pension intact and without apologizing to Mayor Rudolph Giuliani. And last month, he and McAlary traveled together in Ireland.
Says McAlary, "Probably the kindest thing that will ever be said about Safir is that he's a lightweight."
Contrast McAlary's reporting to that of the Post's police beat veteran Murray Weiss, who says Timoney gave him the same "lightweight" quote hours before Timoney spoke to McAlary. Weiss says Timoney was then "emotionally fragile" and that he understood his remark to be off the record. And the Post later printed Timoney's remark after it appeared in McAlary's column.
Learning curve. Five years ago, Sgt. Keith Levine was killed when, while off-duty, he tried to stop a robbery at a midtown cash machine. Two weeks ago, the Police Department dedicated one of its Harbor Unit launchers in his name. The department's diligent and still-learning-the-ropes Deputy Commissioner for Public Information Marilyn Mode attended the ceremony at Randall's Island but never alerted the media, so the event went unreported.
That same week, a night-side cop in the Public Information office attempted to alert her to the disappearance of two mentally retarded young women, reported missing late that afternoon while touring the Bronx Zoo. Mode, who police sources say had already left for the day but hadn't left her home phone number with the office, was beeped by the night-side cop but did not answer her page for an hour.
When Mode asked the cop whether her boss, Police Commissioner Howard Safir, was going up to the Bronx, the cop - having heard nothing from the Intelligence Division since he'd beeped her - assumed, mistakenly, that Safir was not.
So Mode did not attend Safir's Bronx news conference. When she learned of it, she transferred the cop to days. Since he was attending school and couldn't get his money refunded, he may be forced to leave the unit.
Mode explained she hadn't alerted the media to the Levine dedication ceremony because she'd only learned of it herself at the last minute. She refused to discuss the night-side cop's impending transfer, calling it "an administrative matter."
And she says her staff has always had her home phone number.
Courtship. Here's what former Mayor Edward I. Koch, who's urging Bill Bratton to run for mayor against Rudy Giuliani, said of Bratton at his farewell dinner: "I put you with Bob McGuire (Koch's blue-chip appointee) and Theodore Roosevelt as the greatest police commissioners in the history of this department."
Here's what Giuliani, who appointed Bratton then forced him out of One Police Plaza, said of Bratton at the dinner: "You did a great job and I appreciate it."
Burt-bashing. Giuliani and Safir may feel they can safely attack Bronx State Supreme Court Judge Burton Roberts from the confines of City Hall. But Safir had best be careful not to run into Roberts - whose decision to set bail for the man accused of killing Police Officer Vincent Guidice was attacked by Safir and the mayor - in the East Side apartment building in which they both live. Safir may be 20 years younger and six inches taller, but, as this reporter can testify (Roberts rushed him a few years back in the rotunda of the Bronx County Courthouse over an imagined slight and had to be restrained by then Bronx Democratic Chairman George Friedman), the 74-year-old kocker packs a wallop.
Email Leonard Levitt at email@example.com
© 1996 Newsday, Inc. Reprinted with permission.