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Hauer pays a steep green fee

October 1, 2001

Next time Mayor Rudolph Giuliani talks about unifying the city, ask him about Jerry Hauer.

Hauer, who was the city's first disaster czar, had returned to the Office of Emergency Management as a favor after Giuliani sought his help following the World Trade Center attacks.

"I gave him complete loyalty for four years, 24 hours a day," Hauer said of his stay as head of OEM. "I was probably one of the people closest to him. He trusted me and believed in what I had to say. He gave me an enormous amount of latitude."

That was until Sept. 22. The mayor dumped Hauer after Hauer agreed to appear at a news conference with Mark Green, the public advocate and a Democratic mayoral hopeful.

Giuliani called Hauer at Green headquarters and issued an ultimatum: "If you do this you can't work with us anymore," Hauer said the mayor told him.

Hauer said the conversation lasted about a minute.

"I was having trouble hearing him. The cell phone was breaking up and the mayor was becoming frustrated," Hauer said.

As if Hauer's treatment from the mayor wasn't bad enough, Deputy Mayor Joseph Lhota went on the attack last week, bad-mouthing Hauer to reporters and national officials.

Hauer was the first director of OEM, an agency founded under Giuliani to coordinate the city's response to emergencies - from hurricanes and coastal flooding to subway fires, plane crashes and building collapses.

The agency's headquarters and crisis center, known as "the bunker," was at the epicenter of the World Trade Center attack on the 23rd floor of 7 World Trade Center. The attack reduced the bunker to rubble.

Hauer was one of the few recognized experts in the Giuliani administration, most of whose top officials' credentials consist of loyalty to the mayor.

Regarded as an expert in emergency management and counter-terrorism, one of Hauer's areas of expertise is chemical and biological warfare, about which he briefed President Bill Clinton in 1998.

In contrast, his OEM successor, Richie Sheirer, was a fire dispatcher before becoming a deputy police commissioner under Howard Safir in 1996. He became director of OEM when Hauer resigned last year.

After leaving city government, Hauer joined Kroll Associates, the security and consulting firm. Even his recruiting of Giuliani's nemesis, former police commissioner Bill Bratton, for Kroll did not appear to disturb his relationship with the mayor.

Two days after the World Trade Center attack, Hauer was traveling with U.S. Secretary of Health Tommy Thompson, whom he advises on national security issues, when Lhota telephoned. Lhota told Hauer the mayor wanted to see him.

Hauer met Giuliani at the Police Academy, which the mayor used as a command center after the attack.

"The mayor asked me to come on board again to help with the family assistance program on Pier 94," said Hauer.

Another issue on which the mayor sought his expertise was chemical and biological weapons. Hauer signed on as an unpaid volunteer.

Hauer said that for the next eight days he worked round the clock, often at the mayor's side. While Sheirer appeared on television next to the mayor, Hauer said he went on his own to the site.

He said he felt he needed to be walking that site, thanking rescue workers.

He was with the mayor and Lhota at Gracie Mansion until 10 p.m. on Sept. 21, which turned out to be his last day.

The next day, Green, a longtime Giuliani antagonist, announced on television he was holding a news conference on safety issues with Hauer and Bratton, who is a key Green supporter and is rumored to return as police commissioner if Green becomes mayor.

Within 15 seconds of that announcement, the mayor called with his warning, Hauer said.

A Green campaign spokesman said Green would have no comment as the mayor has not publicly criticized Hauer.

Behind the scenes, Lhota had plenty of critical things to say about Hauer last week.

"First, a couple of reporters called me, one from NY1, the other from Newsweek," Hauer said. "They told me Lhota had called them to say that I had been dismissed because I was 'self-appointive and disruptive.'"

Next, he says a friend in Washington called to say that Lhota had telephoned the White House "to inform them I was no longer welcome to work with the city." The call, said Hauer, "was to block my access to the city through federal officials."

Lastly, Hauer said that Sheirer's driver, police officer Robert Mastroni, telephoned Michael Cherkasky, the president of Kroll, to say Hauer needed to turn in his credentials.

Cherkasky said that "Jerry was just trying to be helpful to the city. Our clients are clamoring for him all over the country."

Says Hauer: "While you might expect this of Rudy, what hurts more are the actions of Lhota, who I considered a close friend. I had told him about the Green news conference the night before at Gracie Mansion. Of all the things that hurt, it was the fact that he was so mean-spirited in everything he said about me."

Neither Lhota nor mayoral spokeswoman Sunny Mindel returned calls. Sherier could not be reached for comment.

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© 2001 Newsday, Inc. Reprinted with permission.