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Mayor Mike, Mayor Mike

August 25, 2008

So Mayor Mike wants a third term as mayor.

Becoming President didn’t work out. Neither did Vice President.

Although many would like him to run for governor, he seems reluctant, possibly because of the prospects of taking on Rudy Giuliani — that is, if John McCain doesn’t make it to the White House and bring Rudy into his administration.

In addition, Mayor Mike’s leaving the Republican party and declaring himself an independent might get him a chilly reception from some Republican party leaders.

That means staying as mayor.

Only one problem. The mayor can only serve two terms because of term-limit laws voted by the public that he himself backed — until now.

So with his apparent change of heart, what did Mayor Mike do? He met with the city’s top media moguls — the Post’s Rupert Murdoch, the News’s Mortimer Zuckerman, and Arthur Sulzberger Jr. whose family owns The Times.

Mayor Mike reportedly sought to gauge their support for overturning the term limits if none of the current mayoral candidates meets the high standards he has set.

Well, we’ve been down this road before.

Back in 2001, right after 9/11 when the unknown Mayor Mike was running the first time, Giuliani took advantage of the crisis and the seemingly weak field of candidates to try and abrogate the state constitution and city charter.

Barred like Mayor Mike from seeking a third term, Giuliani sought a charter change that would have allowed a three-months extension of his mayoralty on the premise that none of the candidates was up to the job of guiding the city through 9/11.

Mayor Mike was down with that. So was the perennial loser, Democratic candidate Mark Green. Only dark horse Freddy Ferrer balked at the idea, since it implied that Giuliani was the only person in New York City able to guide its citizens through the aftermath of 9/11. After Ferrer spoke up, Giuliani folded like a cheap suit.

Mayor Ed Koch said it best in rejecting Giuliani’s charter change. In words that Mayor Mike might heed today, Koch said that if Giuliani cared so much about the city, he could stay on for three months — under the new mayor.

A Loyal Chief Departs.
Assistant Chief Michael Collins has filed for retirement. For the past 12 years he and retired chief Tom Fahey have served, intermittently and expertly, as the department’s public face in their position of commanding officer of DCPI, the public information office.

Theirs is a quintessential NYPD story, of rise and fall and rise again — and of loyalty, which is not always rewarded.

Let’s begin with Fahey. He served under Commissioner William Bratton as DCPI’s commanding officer from 1994 until Feb.1995, when Giuliani’s Friday massacre wiped him out along with the rest of the DCPI office under Deputy Commissioner John Miller.

For the next few years he went into hiding, mostly inside the Intelligence Division, hoping Giuliani would forget his name.

When Safir became commissioner in 1996, he appointed his gal-pal Marilyn Mode as Deputy Commissioner for Public Information. Along came Collins.

Like Fahey, Collins had a knack for schmoozing with reporters, appearing to confide confidential information while never revealing a secret the department wanted hidden. Although both were chummy towards reporters, there was no question where their loyalty lay. It was, as it should be, to the NYPD.

Collins’ greatest contribution, however, was using his people skills to contain the damage that Mode caused the department by disappearing for hours, refusing to return phone calls and losing her temper at her staff and at reporters. Despite his efforts, it became obvious to all at Police Plaza and City Hall that something was wrong with DCPI. Everyone knew Mode was the problem but, since she was Safir’s choice, no one wanted to do what needed to be done.

Then, in the finest NYPD tradition, a solution presented itself: Safir spared an incompetent but well-connected higher-up and punished a competent lower-ranking officer.

You guessed it. Safir made Collins the scapegoat. In 1999, he transferred him from DCPI, the night after he had laid out $450 of his own money to host reporters and DCPI staff at the annual office Christmas party.

Both Mode and Safir had attended the party, but gave no indication then that Collins was out. He was so taken by surprise and so hurt that, when I commiserated with him a few days later, his voice choked.

Richard Freedman, Chair of the Department of Management at NYU’s Leonard N. Stern School of Business, called Collins’ ouster “organizational politics at its dirtiest.”

“The boss has to do something so you find the appropriate victim. It’s pure façade,” he said.

Now guess who replaced him as commanding officer? None other than Fahey. His friendship with Safir’s First Deputy Pat Kelleher, has resuscitated Fahey’s career. It had taken four years but he had come full circle. He was now a Deputy Chief, commanding officer again of DCPI.

Fahey remained at DCPI when Kerik became police commissioner. It turned out that he had been Kerik’s commanding officer when Kerik was a rookie in Midtown South precinct.

For Kerik, who’d never risen above third-grade detective, Fahey was the only chief he knew. During Kerik’s short tenure as police commissioner, Fahey was as influential as any chief in the NYPD.

In fact, Kerik tried to reward Fahey by making him Chief of Detectives. Giuliani vetoed that, so Fahey settled for second best — Chief of Manhattan detectives with a promotion to Assistant Chief. His most notable move: assigning homicide detectives to roust Fox News employees after Kerik’s girlfriend, Judith Regan, falsely accused them of stealing her cell phone.

But with Kelly’s return as police commissioner, Fahey’s days were numbered. Kelly had no use for anyone close to Kerik. He wanted people loyal only to him. At Fahey’s retirement dinner, Kerik attended, as did Bratton, who flew in from Los Angeles where he is police chief. Kelly was a no-show.

So what about Collins? Promoted to Deputy Chief, he returned under Kelly to DCPI. Like Fahey, he again served with distinction and loyalty. He was so loyal that for the past couple of years he has refused to return Your Humble Servant’s phone calls.

When, apparently on Kelly’s directive, the department refused to renew Your Humble Servant’s press card, it was Collins who signed the order.

Why has Collins decided to retire? He did not return a call to his office on Saturday. Deputy Commissioner Paul Browne did not return a call seeking an explanation.

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Copyright © 2008 Leonard Levitt