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Quinn and Kelly: Can This Marriage Be Saved?

January 7, 2013

So there’s a deal: City Council Speaker Christine Quinn keeps Ray Kelly as police commissioner if she’s elected mayor, according to the NY Post.

Notwithstanding that the accuracyrangeof any Post story is about 50-50, this one, by reporters Josh Margolin and Dan Mangan, has the ring of truth.

Most importantly, there has been no unequivocal denial from Quinn or Kelly.

Kelly’s non-denial denial is especially significant. By not denying the story, he has allowed himself and the NYPD to become entangled in mayoral politics.

Here’s what Quinn’s and Kelly’s spokesmen said:

Quinn’s spokesman Jamie McShane told the Post that Quinn “has repeatedly said that the next mayor of the city of New York would be incredibly lucky to have Ray Kelly stay on as their police commissioner.”

In an email to this reporter, he added: “It would be presumptuous for Speaker Quinn to offer Ray Kelly or anyone else a job because she's not the mayor.”

No denial there.

Kelly’s spokesman Paul Browne told the Post: “No such discussion — ‘private’ or otherwise — has taken place between Speaker Quinn and Commissioner Kelly.” He did not return an email from this reporter.

Browne's statement begs the question. While Quinn and Kelly may not have discussed Kelly's keeping his job with each other, Browne's response leaves open the seamless possibility that he and a Quinn aide -- McShane maybe -- may have discussed it.

Why “seamless?” Because, in perhaps the best-kept secret in New York City politics, McShane and Browne happen to be related.

We kid you not, readers: Browne is McShane’s uncle.

If indeed there is a deal to keep Kelly police commissioner, it is a deal entangled in politics — not good government.

Keeping Kelly, whose popularity remains sky high among New Yorkers, is Quinn’s response to the possible candidacy of Rudy Giuliani-backed Joe Lhota, who will no doubt run, Giuliani-like, on a law-and-order platform.

Although Lhota can come up with plenty of qualified Giuliani guys to succeed Kelly —starting with former First Deputy Joe Dunne or outgoing Chief of Department Joe Esposito — how do you top a police commissioner who has presided over the lowest homicide rates in 40 or 50 years [depending on which set of statistics you accept], and under whom there has been no successful terrorist attack against the city since 9/11?

Now, take the converse. Should crime go up, or should there be another attack, a new mayor and new police commissioner would pay a political price.

Should this occur early in Quinn’s mayoralty, keeping Kelly as police commissioner provides her with some cover.

And Kelly will be 72 years old when a new mayor takes office. After a bad first year or a bad event, Quinn [or Kelly’s wife Veronica] could decide it was time for him to retire.

Should Quinn retain Kelly, she would become the first mayor in 67 years not to appoint her own police commissioner.

This last occurred in 1946 when William O’Dwyer succeeded Fiorello LaGuardia and retained Arthur Wallander, whom LaGuardia had appointed at the end of his last term.

According to police historian Thomas Reppetto, as recounted in his book “American Police: 1945-2012,” O’Dwyer approved LaGuardia’s appointment of Wallender and promised LaGuardia he would keep him.

But was the apparently chummy relationship between LaGuardia and O’Dwyer the same as Quinn’s relationship with Mayor Michael Bloomberg?

As City Council Speaker, Quinn backed Bloomberg’s most controversial and offensive in his mayoralty.

In 2008, she led the City Council in overriding the voter referendum that limited the mayor to two terms so that Bloomberg could run for a third term in 2009.

In return, it appeared that Bloomberg had favored Quinn for mayor.

Then came the revelation in the New York Times that Bloomberg had suggested to Hillary Clinton that she run for mayor. Why did Bloomberg do this? Why would he think Hillary would even consider running? And this before her blood clot!

How else to regard this but as a snub of Quinn?

Remember, though, that Bloomberg did something similar to Kelly, who was priming himself to run for mayor in 2008, until Bloomberg pulled the rug out from under him and decided to run himself.

As with all politicians, it is foolhardy to take much of what Bloomberg says at face value.

When he first ran for mayor in 2000, he said he wanted Kelly — who was hanging around Bloomberg’s campaign as his law enforcement adviser — to persuade outgoing police commissioner Bernie Kerik — then regarded as a 9/11 hero — to stay on when Bloomberg became mayor.

That was a joke on anybody dumb to believe it. Instead, Bloomberg appointed Kelly. Kerik went off to the pen.

Finally, let’s say something about good government. Under no circumstances should Kelly be reappointed police commissioner. Period.

Come the election, he will have served as commissioner for nearly 12 years. That’s longer than any police commissioner in city history. Too long for any man.

During those 12 years, Bloomberg has allowed him to operate with no outside supervision or oversight. The result has been a total lack of transparency within the department.

Instead of retaining Kelly, the next mayor should appoint someone to investigate what’s gone inside the department for the past 12 years.

He can start with the Intelligence Division and its pernicious rivalry with the FBI. He might examine the circumstances in which Intelligence Division head David Cohen nearly blew the investigation of Colorado-based subway bomber Najibullah Zazi by secretly contacting an NYPD informant, who tipped off Zazi’s father.

Next, he might examine the NYPD Counter Terrorism Foundation, the police department’s own non-profit organization that raised hundreds of thousands of dollars from secret donors to bring a former CIA official to New York to expound his theory of “homegrown” terrorism as the department’s “Scholar in Residence.”

After budgeting $170,000 for the so-called scholar, there’s still a couple of hundred thousand dollars unaccounted for, according to the foundation’s public filings.

Also unaccounted for — now nearly two years later — is Kelly’s ballyhooed report from his blue-ribbon commission on whether or not the NYPD systemically downgrades crimes. That commission was Kelly’s answer to the KGB-like forced incarceration of whistle-blower cop Adrian Schoolcraft.

Queens District Attorney Richard Brown may have concluded that no crime was committed regarding Schoolcraft’s incarceration. But the police who brought him to the psych ward of Jamaica Hospital did so, not for therapy, but as punishment.

Lastly, someone might want to look into the Police Foundation’s multi-million financing of department projects, including Kelly’s personal perks.

We know about his freebies at the Harvard Club, courtesy of NYPD Confidential. We also know about the paid public relations consultant to whom the Police Foundation paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to help Kelly when he considered running for mayor.

Someone might investigate what else is out there.

Edited by Donald Forst

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Copyright © 2013 Leonard Levitt