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Looks like open-and-shut case

July 16, 2004

The mystery of the four missing $50,000 high-tech security doors from One Police Plaza has been solved.

While the Police Department's Internal Affairs Bureau searches for them, a former procurement officer at the Department of Corrections told Newsday yesterday that the doors are at Rikers Island.

And they've been there for the past two years, he says, ever since the Police Department asked Correction to take them off their hands in 2002.

One door, he says, has been installed in a modular trailer in which parole and probation hearings are held. The others are in storage.

"I got a phone call from the deputy commissioner of administration," said the correction official, who is retired and asked that his name not be used. "The PD contacted him sometime between March and October of 2002. We picked up the four doors and took them to Rikers."

Tom Antenen, a spokesman for the Correction Department, was said by his office to be on vacation and unavailable.

The Police Department announced Wednesday that it had launched an investigation into the purchase of the doors under Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik - and their subsequent disappearance.

Paul Browne, a spokesman for Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, said that the doors were too heavy for the floor at One Police Plaza and that there was no paperwork to explain their purchase.

Browne's allegations first appeared in the Chief-Leader, a civil service newspaper. The paper said John Picciano, who was Kerik's chief of staff at the Corrections Department and in the NYPD, authorized the purchase. The Chief-Leader also reported that the doors were ordered from the Georal Co., whose owner, Alan Risi, was indicted in June by Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau for allegedly using false invoices to overcharge for door maintenance parts.

Picciano and Kerik, who work together at Giuliani Partners, denied knowledge of the purchase.

Asked if this was an attempt by Kelly to embarrass him, Kerik said, "I would hope not, but it would be nice if I had received a phone call asking about the doors before going public with these allegations.

"How can the Police Department say they disappeared when they were found on Rikers Island?" Kerik said.

Picciano said: "The Police Department made a mistake in sending the doors to Rikers and then two years later crying they don't know where they are. Maybe they should have sent them to City Hall so they might have prevented a gunman from entering and shooting a city councilman."

Picciano said he was referring to the shooting of Councilman James Davis by a political opponent, who was able to take the gun past security.

Kerik said he was considering filing libel and slander suits against Sidney Schwartzbaum, the president of the Assistant Deputy Wardens Association, who Kerik said was the source of much of the information in the Chief-Leader.

Kerik's attorney, Joe Tacopina said, "I am going to come down with a legal hammer on anyone who libels or slanders Bernie Kerik."

Yesterday, Schwartzbaum said, "The best defense to libel and slander is undisputed truth."

Asked if he would include Browne in a potential suit, Tacopina said, "I am not ruling anyone out."

The feud. The missing doors appear to be the latest blast in the Kelly-Kerik feud that came to light after Kelly hired Joe Wuench as his chief of staff. Kerik had fired Wuench as deputy commissioner for management and budget.

Last week, Kerik said he would not have approved the department's decision granting unlimited access for ABC-TV's "24/7" program on the NYPD, which has exacerbated tensions between the department and the Fire Department. Kelly approved the decision.

Another move. Deputy Inspector Thomas Manzolillo has been transferred from the commanding officer of the 105th Precinct to Bronx Transit after allegedly fudging crime numbers. Sources told Newsday that Manzolillo was not only allegedly down-grading recent criminal complaints so they no longer were among the seven major crimes tracked by the department's Compstat system, but he was up-grading complaints during the tenure of the 105th's past commanding officer.

The 105th is the fourth precinct about which Newsday has written in which statistics have been said to be fudged this year. Others include the 50th, 112th and the 40th.

Staff writer Sean Gardiner contributed to this column.

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© 2004 Newsday, Inc. Reprinted with permission.