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Sordid tale puts Safir on hot seat

August 7, 2000

Everyone at One Police Plaza jokes about the burgeoning sexual-harassment and retaliation scandal-Staten Island style. But most everyone now agrees the joke is on the Police Department.

What began with a female officer's complaint that a male lieutenant had fondled her in his car while she served as his driver has resulted in a $1.2-million payment to former Equal Employment Opportunity Deputy Commissioner Sandra Marsh. And that may be just the beginning.

Marsh sued the department and Police Commissioner Howard Safir in federal court after she was forced to resign, following her refusal to rewrite her report that accused Staten Island's top chief of being "evasive" and his deputy chief of "lying."

According to another chief, the city settled with Marsh to protect Safir from having to testify at her trial. But six other Staten Island police officers are also suing and Safir has been ordered to testify in their case Friday.

Wednesday, Your Humble Servant attended a bizarre hearing on their case before federal magistrate Michael Dolinger. The hearing began with a discussion of the seizure of a calendar of Officer Stacey Maher, a witness for the original complainant.

Maher's attorney, Dan Gazan, maintained the Internal Affairs Bureau stole the calendar, named "Llewellyn's Witches," from inside Maher's locker.

A letter by Lt. Vertel Martin of IAB, provided to Newsday, says the calendar "was confiscated from the outside of Maher's locker...pursuant to a confidential and official NYPD Internal Affairs Bureau investigation and not stolen."

Gazan asked to depose Martin. City attorney Paul Aronson objected, saying Martin was conducting a second confidential investigation of Maher because Maher had filed a complaint against IAB Chief Charles Campisi.

Gazan then asked why IAB had failed to investigate telephone "death threats" against Maher. Although Maher tape-recorded one of the calls and identified the caller to IAB as another police officer, Gazan claimed that IAB only investigated her partner, Sal Bonaventura, who is also suing the department.

Rosemary Carroll, who represents a third plaintiff, retired Staten Island Lt. Lloyd Thompson, then asked whether the department's memorandum ordering Marsh to rewrite her report and signed by Safir's chief of staff, Asst. Chief Lowell Stahl, was actually written by Deputy Commissioner for Legal Matters George Grasso, a defendant with Safir.

The memorandum informed Marsh that the chief she accused of "lying" had suffered "a lapse of memory." For reasons that were not clear, Aronson then became exercised and demanded Your Humble Servant, seated in thecourtroom's back row, to identify himself. Over the protests of his co-counsel Andrea Moss, he demanded that Magistrate Dolinger forbid Newsday from publishing anything about the hearing. Dolinger noted that the hearing was public.

Public Information?
Mayor Rudolph Giuliani has given a raise to his press secretary Sunny Mindel, known to readers of this column as Sunny the Silent. Her $141,000 salary vaults her over her counterpart at police headquarters, Marilyn I have nothing for you Mode, who, last we looked, was paid $133, 000.

It also places Mindel in the financial realm of her predecessor, Cristyne Lategano, whom the mayor packed off to the Convention and Visitors Bureau at a salary of $150,000. In keeping with the mayor's philosophy, all three are paid the staggering amounts to not provide information to the public.

Here are further details from Lt. Eric Adams on the Police Department's tailing and tapping of him for 11 months before closing its investigation as "unsubstantiated."

"When we went to meet with Commissioner Safir," Adams told Newsday last week, "he said did I want him to divulge the charge in front of the other people. I said yes. He said the allegation was that I was accused of consorting with a known felon. I said, 'Can I look at the case file?' He said, 'No.'"

Adams says he was so "flabbergasted" by the allegation, he never asked Safir to identify the felon.

Broken Windows.
The "broken windows" theory, the philosophical underpinning for the city's zero-tolerance crime crackdown, holds that if a community allows outward decay, such as a broken window, inner decay, such as crime, fear and more crime, follows.

For the past month, the glass revolving door to One Police Plaza has been shattered. No one has explained why it has not been repaired.

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© 2000 Newsday, Inc. Reprinted with permission.