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Fighting Corruption the PBA Way

May 18, 2015 

Mention the letters PBA, and the word “corruption” is usually not far behind.

Sure enough, amid the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association’s upcoming election, the top three officers of an insurgent slate seeking to unseat PBA President Patrick Lynch have been implicated in the NYPD’s ongoing ticket-fixing scandal. (Election ballots go out on May 22. Electronic counting occurs June 5, all under the auspices of the American Arbitration Association.)

Of course, ticket fixing has gone on in police departments since the beginning of the automobile and many believe there is less to this scandal than meets the eye. Nonetheless, the insurgents’ presidential candidate, Brian Fusco, has pleaded guilty to departmental charges. First and second vice presidential candidates Joe Anthony and Michael Hernandez face felony counts. And Brian McGuckin, who recently withdrew as the insurgent slate’s financial secretary, goes on trial this week on grand larceny and forgery charges.

The insurgent slate claims on its “Strengthen the Shield” website that “Mr. Lynch has become complacent, intolerant of criticism and distant from his members’ daily needs.” But the claims may not be gaining the traction they otherwise might because of the toll ticket-fixing scandal has taken on insurgents.

Still, heading an organization for 16 years goes to a man’s head. Nowhere was this more apparent than after the assassination of Dets. Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu in December, when Lynch accused Mayor Bill de Blasio of having “blood on his hands,” orchestrated officers’ turning their backs on the mayor at the cops’ funerals, then encouraged a work slowdown that upset and frightened many New Yorkers.

“Lynch has to know he went over the line,” said Fusco, adding that Lynch’s actions were a result of the looming election.

Lynch refused requests to be interviewed for this article.

Ironically, Lynch’s most notable accomplishment since his election in 1999 has been bringing the union into the 21st century, largely corruption-free.

Just a generation or so ago, the PBA seemed but a step away from a criminal enterprise. Its chief counsel, Ritchie Hartman, owed half a million dollars to Atlantic City casinos and later went to federal prison for bribery and extortion convictions while employed by another police union. The PBA’s chief investigator, Walter Cox, died in Rikers while awaiting trial on charges that he bribed witnesses to lie for crooked cops. 

No longer do we hear of secret meetings so cops could get their stories straight, as occurred in the parking lot of the 46th Precinct after the death of Anthony Baez at the hands of union delegate Frank Livoti in 1994, or in the basement of Brooklyn’s 70th Precinct following the sodomizing of Abner Louima by Officer Justin Volpe in 1997.

Instead, the union flexes its muscle legally. After the 1999 fatal police shooting in the Bronx of Amadou Diallo, an unarmed African immigrant, the union lobbied successfully to move the trial out of the Bronx. Distrustful of both Bronx juries and the presiding black judge, the PBA hired recently retired Bronx Chief Judge Burton Roberts, who convinced his colleagues in the First Appellate Department to move the trial to Albany.

There, former Chief Justice Judith Kaye and then-Chief Administrative Judge Jonathan Lippman, the court’s current chief justice, handpicked Judge Joseph Teresi to preside at the trial. A jury acquitted the four cops charged in the case. Teresi, who most observers agree presided fairly, then attended the PBA’s victory celebration.

Lynch also has seemed reluctant to publicly support the 13 cops indicted in the ticket-fixing scandal, leading to a charge by the insurgents’ Joe Anthony that Lynch could have done much more.

A PBA source acknowledged that Lynch “has kept a relatively low profile in the scandal,” but added that the union had paid $1.7 million to outside attorneys to defend the officers.

“Our big concern,” said the PBA source, “was that when the scandal first broke and the indictments were announced, we feared the Bronx district attorney was going to indict the union as a criminal enterprise."

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