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Raising funds, raising eyebrows

May 20, 2002

Brooklyn District Attorney Joe Hynes has already begun fund-raising for his re-election campaign.

Unlike the city's other district attorneys, Hynes is the only one to begin fund-raising three years early. (Queens District Attorney Richard Brown and the Bronx's Robert Johnson say they hold one fund-raiser per term.)

Except for Bill Murphy in Staten Island - a borough where all government is infused with politics - Hynes is the only DA who allows his assistants to contribute to his campaigns.

"It's not illegal," explains Hynes' spokesman Jerry Schmetterer.

Last week, Hynes' former first deputy, Al Teichman, told Newsday that "Joe asked if I would help raise money. I said I would be happy to."

On May 14, Teichman sent a letter to the Kings County District Attorneys' Alumni Association telling members about a "reception in honor of Charles 'Joe' Hynes, Brooklyn's longest serving district attorney." It asked association members to kick in $300 as a "sponsor," $200 as a "friend," or $100 as a "guest."

"The tradition of teaching young lawyers how to practice criminal law continues today under the leadership of Charles J. Hynes," Teichman wrote. "Joe, as you know, has been committed to keeping the Brooklyn DA's office in the forefront of the criminal justice system.

"Prosecutors and police departments throughout the nation look to our office for the latest successful programs in prosecution ... Just like you, Joe Hynes was an assistant district attorney ... This experience makes Joe the unique district attorney that he is - a prosecutor who truly understands the needs of victims, police officers, witnesses and the lawyers who serve to protect them."

Now let's get real.

It's not just that while supposedly serving the people of Brooklyn, Hynes ran unsuccessfully for governor and for attorney general. It's not that he runs away from controversial cases like Abner Louima or Crown Heights, letting the feds do the heavy lifting.

Or that unlike any other district attorney in this town, he has recused himself from literally hundreds of cases, citing "conflicts of interest." Or that except for his top aides, he has kept salaries so low that he can hire slugs like former Brooklyn borough president Howie Golden at $125,000. To do what? Not to prosecute cases. His title is "director of community and civic affairs."

So why the three-year lead time on fund-raising?

Schmetterer consulted with the Big Guy and came back with the answer that Joe was the only DA with a primary opponent and needed to replenish his coffers. Schmetterer noted that the campaign had spent fundsdefending a law suit, brought by his opponent, Sandra Roper, over Hynes' residency in Breezy Point. Schmetterer added that Hynes also spent an unspecified legal bundle attacking Roper's petitions.

The Final Word. Notwithstanding his testimony justifying the police actions that resulted in the shooting of Amadou Diallo, James Fyfe will be sworn in as the Police Department's director of training this week.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg said last week that he can understand why some oppose the appointment.

"But before Commissioner [Ray] Kelly appointed him," Bloomberg said, "he [Kelly] and I had a long discussion. I told him to go ahead.

"Fyfe is a guy who had testified for the police. He also testified against the police in the Rodney King situation. He calls it as he sees it ... We picked the right person," the mayor said.

Shocking Development? Yup, that was Todd Ciaravino standing outside the mayor's townhouse last week with Vice President Dick Cheney. The former driver for ex-Staten Island borough president Guy Molinari and professional coat-holder for ex-police commissioner Howard Safir is now doing "advance" work for Cheney.

Todd sure lands on his feet. The last time this column caught up with him, he had accidentally fired a handgun in Safir's office on the 14th floor of One Police Plaza in August 1998, an incident Safir tried to keep quiet.

Todd then worked briefly for the vice president's transition committee, turned down a job in the Bush administration, and served briefly as executive director of Carol Safir's infamous police museum.

Question for the Secret Service, which is charged with guarding the vice president, who has a history of heart problems: Will Todd be holding Cheney's coat or his defibrillator?

The General Was Missing. A day or so before the Salute to Israel Parade two weeks ago, top police brass met to discuss the event's security concerns.

They received what one person described as a "stirring" speech from the newly appointed Deputy Commissioner for Counter Terrorism Frank Libutti on the need for vigilance in watching for terrorists during the parade route.

But when the parade kicked off, Libutti, a former lieutenant general in the Marines, wasn't there. Someone had to call his home to remind him his presence was desirable.

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© 2002 Newsday, Inc. Reprinted with permission.