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New York City's Police “Commissioner” Foundation

November 1, 2010

The Police Foundation has spent nearly $400,000 on a publicist who devotes his time to getting favorable press coverage for Police Commissioner Ray Kelly while introducing him to the rich and famous.

Publicist Hamilton South has been paid nearly $100,000 a year from the Foundation since 2006, beginning as a “marketing consultant,” but morphing into Kelly’s high-powered public relations man.

Kelly’s P.R. push went into full swing around the time that he was lining up support for his mayoral bid a few years ago.

Thanks to South, Kelly was mingling more than ever before with wealthy A-listers, who could have been tapped for future campaign contributions.

That possibility ended when Mayor Michael Bloomberg decided he wanted a third term.

South’s continued role at the Foundation may mean that Kelly is considering another mayoral bid.

South’s well-paid position is Kelly’s second ethically questionable arrangement with the Police Foundation, a non-profit organization formed in the wake of the Knapp corruption scandal to fund police commissioners’ pet projects such as Crime Stoppers or bullet-proof vests.

This column reported last week that the Foundation has paid Kelly’s $1,500-a-year dues at the Harvard Club as well as his dining and entertaining bills there for the past eight years.

Kelly did not list any of these benefits on city financial disclosure forms — an apparent violation of ethics rules.

He has also refused to give the Foundation the names of the people he entertained at the club, citing “privacy” concerns.

By secretly allowing the Foundation to pay his Harvard Club expenses, Kelly may also have some explaining to do to the Internal Revenue Service.

Seeking to replicate the success that Caroline Kennedy had in raising money for the city schools, Kelly himself pushed the Foundation to hire South, a former publicist for Ralph Lauren, whose website describes him as an “industry leader in communications, marketing and strategic planning [whose] roster of clients includes fashion and lifestyle consumer brands as well as corporate, media and civic concerns.”

However, South’s mission soon changed from promoting the Foundation to promoting Kelly, said a person familiar with the arrangement.

“His focus was on promoting Kelly as the Foundation’s face, and the main strategy seemed to be to introduce the commissioner to the A-listers, ostensibly to promote the Foundation’s work among the rich and famous,” said that person.

“The contract was between the Police Foundation and Hamilton South,” the person said. “On paper, the Police Foundation was the client. But the dynamic shifted. It was unspoken, but the client was no longer the Police Foundation. It was Ray Kelly. South ended up working for him. He is the one who got taken and introduced to these wealthy individuals.”

In 2008, South got Kelly featured in Men’s Vogue, wearing what the magazine described as “a bespoke Martin Greenfield suit, French cuffs fastened with weighty gold links and a gold-colored Charvet tie. [‘My big weakness,’ he confided.]”

The magazine also gushed that “Kelly is a fixture on the city’s social circuit,” and that “he appears in society photographs with actresses like Ellen Barkin, designers like Ralph Lauren, and pop stars like Marc Anthony…” Anthony performed at the Foundation’s annual fundraiser. Kelly played the bongos.

Another article, in the travel magazine Departures, said that Kelly "doesn't make a point of wearing designer labels,” but that he has “got the basic elements of real style: intelligence, charisma, total individuality, and a track record of impressive accomplishments."

South, Police Foundation executive director Gregg H. Roberts, Foundation chairwoman Valerie Salembier, and Kelly’s police department spokesman Paul Browne did not return calls from this reporter.

South remains busy at the Foundation, introducing Kelly around town.

Last year, he introduced Kelly to Barry Diller, who contributed a couple of hundred thousand dollars to the Foundation, said a source.

South also introduced Kelly to Ivanka Trump. Kelly later attended her wedding to New York Observer publisher Jared Kushner.

Television personality Regis Philbin was also a wedding guest. He has boasted on air about his friendship with Kelly, and supposedly last year gave Kelly a ride on his private jet to a Notre Dame football game in South Bend, Indiana.

. “Who would have ever suspected that Ray Kelly leads two lives?” began Bob McManus in a New York Post Op Ed piece Wednesday, wondering how Kelly’s image as a “straight arrow” could be squared with allegations that he had been freeloading from the Police Foundation.

Well, who would ever have suspected that there are two Bob McManuses? One is the fiery editor of the Post’s editorial page, which, despite its Cro-Magnon positions, is sometimes trenchant and high-minded.

The other is the reporter who, after eating a hamburger and a pickle with Kelly at the Harvard Club, has apparently gone loopy.

McManus seems to have forgotten a simple rule of journalism that even his boss, Mr. Rupert Murdoch, would follow: wiser to pay for a source’s lunch than have him pay for yours.

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If the Harvard Club accepts only Kelly’s dough, take out your wallet, give him a $20 bill for your share of the meal, then file a reimbursement chit back at the Post.

First, let’s correct one of McManus’s facts. Referring to the Police Foundation’s paying for counter-terrorism detectives stationed overseas, McManus wrote that they otherwise “wouldn’t be there because the city employs so many social workers that it can’t afford the freight.”

Actually, the Police Foundation pays the overseas detectives’ expenses — not their salaries — because there is no provision in the charter that allows the city to do so.

McManus also wrote that Kelly’s guest list at the Harvard Club should be immune to disclosure because “Kelly’s extensive outside-of-channels anti-terrorism activities are extensive, effective — and absolutely should not, must not, be matters of public record.”

The truth: Kelly’s anti-terrorism activities may indeed be extensive and effective, but what does that have to do with free lunches or dinners at the Harvard Club?

Some of his other Harvard Club guests have included the Daily News’s newly appointed editor-in-chief Kevin Convey; former Citizens Crime Commissioner head and police historian Tom Reppetto; and Alice T. McGillion, a former NYPD spokeswoman and First Deputy Commissioner who is now a top exec in the public relations firm of Howard Rubenstein. One of her accounts is the New York Yankees. Kelly was seen on TV, seated in the first row at Yankee Stadium at last year’s World Series and at this year’s playoffs. [Nope, the Yankees didn’t comp him. They’re a Rudy Giuliani-friendly team, which means a Kelly freebie is a no-no. More likely, billionaire Mayor Mike gave Kelly tickets to his box.]

So what anti-terrorism advice did Convey, Reppetto or McGillion offer Kelly, do you suppose? [Actually Reppetto has recently completed a book, “Battleground New York City: Countering Spies, Saboteurs and Terrorists since 1861.”]

What about you, Bob? Maybe you could advise him how to handle the media’s pesky questions over the department’s rampant manipulation of crime statistics.

McManus also wrote: “And if Ray Kelly erred in failing to report it and others like it, that speaks more to the inanity of the reporting requirements than it does to the integrity of Ray Kelly.”

The truth: It wasn't because the reporting rules were inane that Ray Kelly didn’t report his Harvard Club dues and meals

No, Bob. Ray Kelly didn’t make the required disclosures because Ray Kelly doesn’t report anything to anybody — period. That includes Mayor Mike, who has allowed the NYPD under Kelly to become more closed to the public than at any time in at least the past 30 years. Nobody knows what’s going on inside the department because Kelly won’t allow his chiefs or deputy commissioners or anyone else [other than his spokesman Paul Browne] to talk to reporters.

That’s part of what the burgeoning crime manipulation scandal is all about. That’s why, after whistle-blower cop Adrian Schoolcraft reported the crime stats fudging, a deputy chief had him tossed into Jamaica Hospital’s psych ward for six days, an outrage for which no one in the police department has been disciplined or held accountable. Come to think of it, Bob, that might make a pretty interesting column.

Lastly, McManus wrote: “But if he [Kelly] resents the [reporting] requirement, he is entitled. There may be a straighter arrow in public life than Ray Kelly but, if so, that person is in deep cover.”

The truth: McManus may believe that Kelly is a straight arrow, but he’s beginning to look and sound like his imprisoned predecessor Bernie Kerik.

Back in the day, when Kelly was between police commissionerships and Your Humble Servant was hanging his hat at Newsday, we had lunch together — twice — along with Browne and the late Newsday columnist Dennis Duggan. Not at the Harvard Club but at an expensive joint in Greenwich Village.

Newsday paid.

Each time.

Finally, here’s a word on the subject from my former Newsday boss: “Kelly shouldn't be getting handouts from anyone. It makes no difference that it is a police organization. That organization should be embarrassed also.Why does it feel it should supplement Kelly’s income?

“He [McManus] belittled the scandal byreducing it to a hamburger lunch. The story isn't about McManus and his hamburger. It's a tawdry tale about a top cop with his hand out.”

POEM. Here's a poem from Albany reader Terry O'Neill.

We’ll supply the title: “The Schnorrer.” [See Webster’s Third International Edition: A Yiddish word meaning beggar.]

Long ago when cops walked beats
The best of perks was those free eats.
But times have changed, the rules are straight
Each cop must pay for what he ate;
Except, it seems, our famed Commish
Who loves to taste a pricey dish,
Show off his manners and fancy ties.
Why not, if the Foundation buys?

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Copyright © 2010 Leonard Levitt