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Summing up a City Hall drama

August 11, 1997

So what do we really know about Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and his communications director, Cristyne Lategano?

Fact: In late 1994, the mayor's advisers were pressuring him to fire her. She was then his "press secretary," and they cited her inability to run her office and deal with reporters. At the time, she was hanging out with John Miller, deputy police commissioner for public information under then-commissioner Bill Bratton. They trained together for the New York City marathon and dined at his Upper East Side restaurant haunt, "Elaine's."

Meanwhile, Giuliani was struggling to control Bratton and his NYPD Public Information Office, which Miller ran. Fact: The mayor was so sensitive to any perceived Bratton slight that when the NYPD conducted a drug raid but hit the wrong door and knocked down a woman, who required hospitalization, the mayor became furious when he learned Bratton had visited her without his approval.

Then, around New Year's, 1995, Miller's and Lategano's relationship soured. Fact: Lategano then began hanging out with the mayor.

Bratton's aides believed Lategano "steamed Giuliani up" over Bratton and Miller. Fact: And then on Feb. 13, 1995, mayoral counsel Dennison Young ordered Miller to transfer his entire Public Information staff by the end of the day. Miller resigned.

Fact: On Feb. 22, Lategano announced that Bratton needed "a reality check." She added: "Public relations was put before any kind of substance. When you put glamor over fighting crime, it leads to serious problems . . . We're here to fight crime, not be Hollywood stars." Former mayor Edward I. Koch said Lategano's remarks were so harsh Bratton might have to resign.

The following month, Newsday reported the mayor shopping with Lategano for a dress on a Sunday afternoon. Newsday also reported that Giuliani's election strategist David Garth had urged Giuliani to drop Lategano. Instead, Giuliani dropped Garth.

Fact: Not too much later, Giuliani's boyhood friend and then First Deputy Mayor Peter Powers - who had also urged Giuliani to drop Lategano - tried to discuss with the mayor what was termed at city hall as "the Cristyne factor." The mayor told Powers never to mention it again. Powers has left the administration.

On March 31, 1995, Giuliani promoted Lategano, with a $25,000 raise, from press secretary to communications director, a position that didn't exist in previous administrations. (The 32-year-old Lategano now earns $124,000.) 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." Her promotion merited her a newly converted basement office just below the mayor's, connected by a private staircase.

Printable versionAs communications director, Lategano is responsible, as Giuliani explained at her promotion, for "developing communication strategies for the administration." As reporters know, this administration is mostly incommunicado.

As for those strategies, the NYPD now resists revealing information routinely issued by administrations during the past 20 years. Police Commissioner Howard Safir refuses to hold news conferences with the in-house press corps. When asked difficult questions, he and his spokeswoman Marilyn Mode answer, "I have nothing for you."

And despite Lategano's criticism of Bratton for putting style before substance, Safir, unlike Bratton, actually played himself on the television program, "NYPD Blue."

Lategano is also responsible for Giuliani's public scheduling and "more or less," she said at her promotion, scheduled herself to accompany him to evening functions. Fact: Giuliani's wife Donna Hanover has stopped appearing at functions Lategano attends. In fact, she has dropped the name Giuliani.

Has Giuliani been "intimate" with Lategano, as Vanity Fair magazine says? Well, when Newsday's first article on the subject appeared in June, 1995, a person in the mayoral loop said that the article's sole positive effect might be to cause the mayor to become more circumspect about their relationship. When asked if revealing the relationship in the newspapers would pain Giuliani's wife, he said, "What makes you think she doesn't know about it already?"

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© 1997 Newsday, Inc. Reprinted with permission.