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Rudy Giuliani: Mr. Transparency

December 17, 2007

So Rudy Giuliani says he is Mr. Transparency.

“My government in New York City was so transparent that they knew every single thing I did, almost every time I did,” he said last week in the most recent Republican presidential debate.

New York Times columnist Jim Dwyer was quick to pick up on this nonsense, noting that Giuliani was anything but open in governing the city. Your Humble Servant finds it especially amusing, considering the cloak of darkness he draped over the police department for eight years.

The department was especially dark between the years 1996 and 2000, when Giuliani exerted his greatest control by installing Howard Safir. Safir’s title was Police Commissioner but he functioned as Rudy’s First Deputy.

Routine questions, like the number of officers on patrol in a precinct, went unanswered.

The department released nothing but the barest information without a formalized “freedom of information” request, which usually took months to process.

When the Daily News sought data on subway crime, the department stonewalled for six months.

The quarterly list of overtime earners — public record for decades — was parsed to avoid revealing that the highest earners were … guess who? The detectives guarding Giuliani.

Another secret: the number of officers in the department’s Public Information office. In 1995, Giuliani had forced the resignation of former Commissioner Bill Bratton’s spokesman John Miller. Guiliani transferred the entire DCPI staff, then reduced its size by two-thirds. Hei argued with a straight face that the DCPI officers could be better utilized out on the street and their jobs performed by civilians.

Under Safir, the number of officers in DCPI actually exceeded those under Bratton before the transfers. Numbers of civilians added who supplied public information: one.

Meanwhile, the department began denying reporters and photographers access to public events. At parades and crime scenes, the police forced them into sidewalk “pens,” often far from the news they were covering.

Daily News counsel Eve Burton, its then managing editor Art Browne, and the City Press Club’s president Gabe Pressman documented these abuses of police authority. The News’s editorial director Harold Evans persuaded The Times, Newsday, and the Associated Press to join in a federal law suit against the city.

[Alas, the News’s owner, Mortimer Zuckerman, then blindsided his fellow publishers by sneaking down to City Hall, where he made a secret deal with Giuliani. He then wrote some puffery in the News, purporting to explain how he had wrestled Giuliani into agreeing “in principle” to solve the “pens” problem when in realty nothing changed. Way to go, Zuckster!]

Nor were journalists the only people the police department stonewalled. When state comptroller H. Carl McCall sought to audit the department’s city-wide crime statistics, Giuliani refused, insisting McCall wanted to hurt him politically.

When Gene Russianoff, chairman of the Straphangers Campaign, a citizens’ subway watchdog group, sought a clarification from Safir on subway crime data and called Safir’s office for his fax number, his aides refused to divulge it, saying it was “classified.”

It was so obvious to New Yorkers that Giuliani was anything but transparent that, while running in 2001, Mayor Bloomberg promised more transparency in the police department than had existed under Giuliani.

Unfortunately, things did not turn out that way.

So Long, Vinnie.
Seems that all those questionable gifts of money he got from his subordinates and from a 9/11 charity has finally caught up with Inspector Vincent Marra of the Intelligence Division’s Criminal Intelligence Section. Following details reported in this column and an Internal Affairs Bureau investigation, Marra has taken terminal leave pending retirement.

IAB was investigating how and why he received $1,000 from The Bravest Fund, a charity for 9/11 victims. In 2002, the fund awarded Marra $1,000 for a type of chest surgery that doesn’t appear to have anything to do with 9/11.

According to an anonymous letter sent to the Internal Affairs Chief Charles Campisi, Marra received the money after pressuring his subordinate, a female Intel detective, to persuade her boyfriend who was running the fund to give him $10,000. Marra had to settle for $1,000.

According to the letter, Marra also put the arm on his Intel staff, raising as much as $25,000. The letter also alleged that anyone not contributing was blacklisted and held back from favored assignments and promotions.

According to the letter, Marra boasted that the contributions helped pay for his ski house in Hunter Mountain.

He did not return a message left on his phone at the Intelligence Division.

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Copyright © 2007 Leonard Levitt