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Safir pardon scoop: that's a rich one

February 19, 2001

Will we never be rid of Howard Safir?

The former U.S. Marshal Service bounty hunter, metamorphosed by Mayor Rudolph Giuliani into "the greatest police commissioner in the history of New York City," turned up last week on WCBS-TV, offering his insights into the Marc Rich pardon.

Safir was interviewed by reporter Marcia Kramer, whom Safir had sued for libel three years ago after she reported he had paid for a dinner at an alleged mob joint with a city credit card. (The dinner was actually paid for by The Finest Foundation, a group of police buffs.)

This past unpleasantness notwithstanding, Safir did not hesitate to tell Kramer on TV that "the last two times the president was in town, he spent a bit of time with Ms. [Denise] Rich."

When asked later by a reporter from another news organization whether Clinton's visits to Rich's ex-wife occurred while Safir was police commissioner, Safir grew coy and said he didn't remember.

Well, Safir retired as commissioner in August. According to newspaper reports, Clinton visited New York last September, speaking at the United Nations and meeting with Russian premier Vladimir Putin and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak.

He returned in October for his wife Hillary's 53rd birthday party and was back again to celebrate her election victory. No mention was made of his visiting Denise Rich.

So how is Safir, now a private citizen, privy to the president's whereabouts?

Recall that a year ago, Hillary, then running for the Senate, dropped the Police Department from her security detail. Her police escorts came from the Intelligence Division, which reported directly to Safir. Law-enforcement sources say Hillary was so wary of the Police Department, she refused to have uniformed officers guard her so that she was protected only by Secret Service agents.

What she feared was that the cops would report confidential campaign information back to her opponent-at the time, Giuliani.

An unwritten story of the Giuliani administration is how the mayor has commandeered the department to serve both his personal and political ends.

n 1994, when Giuliani supported Democrat Mario Cuomo for governor against Republican George Pataki, police officers tore down Pataki posters along the route of the New York City marathon. When Pataki aides protested, presenting a videotape of the incident to Safir's predecessor, Bill Bratton, Bratton tossed the video into a trash can.

Six months after leaving the department, Safir's successor, Bernard Kerik, still provides Safir with Intelligence Division bodyguards, supposedly because of threats on his life that no one, including Kerik, believes exist. (Maybe they're from Denise Rich.)

Meanwhile, Safir's Deputy Commissioner for Public Information Marilyn Mode, who, like Safir, cleaned out her office at One Police Plaza in August, remains on the department payroll, retaining her more than $100,000 salary and city car while working in the Office of Emergency Management. People at OEM say she works on "grants," but whether for OEM or for herself is not known.

Kramer says she recently saw Mode and Safir together at a breakfast sponsored by the civic group, a Better New York. Although Mode is a city employee and Safir a private citizen, Kramer said Mode was acting as Safir's spokeswoman.

More Trouble in Paradise.
Not a good week for the Finest Foundation. First, its executive vice president, Teddy Leb, took a leave of absence, following his arrest by postal inspectors for mail fraud in connection with his Long Island car dealership. Also leaving the foundation for reasons unknown is former president Shelly Goldfeder, who hasn't returned calls over the past month.

Meanwhile, Finest board member Dennis Schnur, who nearly got into a fistfight with Leb at the Finest's last board meeting, has been subpoenaed by the United States Attorney's office in Manhattan concerning the sale of federal badges and shields by Miguel Garcia, a federal agent.

Laughing the Loudest.
Former Finest board member Reginald Ward, who blew the whistle on Leb.

Let-No-Good-Deed-Go-Unpunished Department.
Former police officer Bobby Stanton hit the celebrity jackpot last month when New York Magazine placed him on its cover as the city's hottest private eye. Stanton posed at Elaine's restaurant between Bratton and two of his former deputy commissioners, Jack Maple and John Miller, with a .45-caliber pistol in his waistband.

This angered Jerry Preiser, president of the Federation of N.Y. State Rifle and Pistol Clubs, who claims legitimate handgun carriers are losing their pistol permits while celebs like Stanton retain theirs.

Preiser fired off a letter to the department's pistol-licensing bureau, accusing Stanton of "brandishing"-the "unnecessary display of a firearm." Stanton responded, saying the gun he posed with was a fake.

Preiser may not be aware that Stanton also has friends high in the Police Department. Not for nothing was he recently seen shooting at the department's pistol range, a privilege not afforded most civilians.

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© 2001 Newsday, Inc. Reprinted with permission.