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A closer look seems in order

January 21, 2005

Is Bernard Kerik's flameout merely the very public tale of one man's personal failings? Or does the former police commissioner's fall represent some larger truths?

Let's begin with some questions for his patron, former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, who became a national icon stemming from the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks and is now considered a presidential aspirant.

Amid Kerik's withdrawal as homeland security secretary nominee, the image of Giuliani and Kerik as heroes tramping around the rubble of the World Trade Center has been superseded by another - that of the married Kerik using a Ground Zero apartment to rendezvous with his girlfriends.

That leads to the following questions: Did Giuliani know about Kerik's apartment? Did he know about Kerik's girlfriends? Did Giuliani also know Kerik had not filled out the required financial disclosure forms when he was appointed police commissioner in 2000? Did Giuliani know of Kerik's ties to an alleged mob figure, Lawrence Ray?

Giuliani's spokeswoman, Sunny Mindel, did not respond to those questions.

There also are questions for Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the city Department of Investigation, which is examining the vetting process that allowed Kerik to become police commissioner. Giuliani appointed Kerik, a third-grade detective with no college degree, over the department's highest uniformed officer, 30-year veteran Joe Dunne, who was supported by Giuliani's then-police commissioner, Howard Safir.

Will DOI explore the full Giuliani-Kerik relationship? Will the entire story be made public?

While declining to comment on the investigation, Emily Guest, a spokeswoman for DOI, said: "DOI will do its job, and the mayor does not tell DOI how to do its job."

Bloomberg's spokesman, Ed Skyler, did not return a call.

DOI recently disclosed that its inspector general for the jails, Michael Caruso, would not be involved in the Kerik probe. On Wednesday, the jail supervisors union unanimously issued a no-confidence vote in Caruso - long seen as too close to Kerik when he was correction commissioner to be an effective watchdog.

And finally, there is Iraq. Kerik still has not explained why he left Iraq several months before his assignment was over in 2003.

Kerik's abrupt departure raises more questions.

In a recent deposition in the case of former correction Officer Eric DeRavin, who says Kerik denied him a promotion because DeRavin had disciplined correction Officer Jeanette Pinero, one of the girlfriends Kerik reportedly entertained at the Ground Zero apartment, Kerik said:

"People can lead by example so that the people underneath them know and understand that they wouldn't ask them to do something they wouldn't do themselves."

Which raises yet another question: If he leads by example, what exactly has he been showing?

Staff writer Graham Rayman contributed to this column.

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© 2005 Newsday, Inc. Reprinted with permission.