A new friend’s generous gift
July 6, 1999
The Revlon executive who paid for Howard Safir and his wife, Carol, to go to the Oscars in California met the police commissioner for the first time last year, says Revlon spokesman Howard Rubenstein.
"They met at a dinner party at the home of a mutual friend some time in 1998," Rubenstein said, responding to questions from Newsday. In case you were wondering, "It's a private matter who the mutual friend was," he added.
The reason this matters is that the date of Safir's first meeting with Revlon president and chief executive officer George Fellows could determine the long-awaited conclusion of investigations by the city Corporation Counsel's office and Conflicts of Interest Board into the propriety of Safir's trip.
The City Charter prohibits public employees from accepting gifts of $50 or more - the Safirs trip is estimated to have cost $7,000. But the charter has been interpreted as allowing a public servant to accept gifts from "a close personal friend" when it can be shown that the personal relationship, rather than the gift, is the controlling factor.
Although that's what Safir maintains occurred, Mark Davies, the Conflicts of Interest Board's executive director, said last week: "In general, without referring to the Safir matter, the shorter a relationship, the harder it is to show that the reason for a gift was the relationship and not the position of the public servant."
Fellows flew the Safirs on a Revlon jet to Los Angeles, comped them for two nights at a five-star Beverly Hills hotel and provided them with tickets to the Academy Awards.
Safir and Mayor Rudolph Giuliani apparently realized the Oscar trip was political trouble because after Safir was spotted on television, the mayor ordered him back to New York on the red-eye so that he could testify the next morning at a city council hearing on the Amadou Diallo shooting. Carol Safir returned on the Revlon jet.
Safir had not publicly disclosed his trip, saying through his spokeswoman, Marilyn Mode, that he might not attend the council hearing due to an unspecified "scheduling conflict." Returning home, he described her explanation as "diplomatic language."
Forget for a moment Revlon owner Ronald Perelman's hiring of off-duty NYPD cops, which, according to the Post, allowed him to place a uniformed officer outside his East Side townhouse.
Rather, let's examine Perelman's hiring of Tosano Simonetti, also known as Tough Tony or Tony the Tiger. In 1996, Safir appointed "Simo" first deputy police commissioner. A year later, he absconded with a tax-free, line-of-duty disability pension worth more than $100,000 annually, courtesy of the Heart Bill, a piece of sham legislation fomented by the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association claiming all cops heart problems are job-related. Perelman then hired him as security director for his holding company, MacAndrews & Forbes at a six-figure salary.
Last year, Tough Tony was reincarnated as a member of the Civilian Complaint Review Board, a move criticized by the city council's Public Safety Committee head Sheldon Leffler as a potential conflict of interest because of Tony's connections to the department.
Last week, no doubt because of his sharp legal mind, Simonetti turned up as a member of the mayor's new charter revision commission.
Perhaps because its first public meeting was picketed by hundreds of protestors, Tough Tony answered this way when asked how his heart was: "Not so good."
His replacement may be John Gotti attorney Bruce Cutler or retired Bronx judge Burton Roberts. While Cutler couldn't be reached for comment, Roberts said, "I do not represent anyone at this time." He added, "This case is a tragedy for all concerned. It has been tried in the media and in the streets and now it is time for it to be tried in the court of law." Sounds like an opening argument.
About 80 people showed up to bid farewell to the Dark Prince, including Commissioner Safir, who'd dissed Louie into retirement and who brought wife Carol - possibly for protection.
© 1999 Newsday, Inc. Reprinted with permission.