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“Using” the Police Foundation

June 8, 2015

So the City Council is going to investigate the Police Foundation.

The announcement by Vanessa Gibson, who chairs the Council’s Public Safety Committee, follows the disclosure in the NY Post that Police Commissioner William Bratton is using the non-profit foundation to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to consultants with whom he has had longtime relationships.

The Post story follows by a couple of weeks the disclosure in NYPD Confidential that one of those consultants, John Linder — who “re-engineered” the department for Bratton in 1994 — has been paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to re-engineer the department again.

The Post story went further, saying Bratton was doling out “cushy consulting jobs to cronies” of up to $2 million. It quoted an anonymous former NYPD official saying that Bratton used the foundation as a “piggy bank.”

But a key person was largely missing from the Post’s account of foundation-related misconduct: Bratton’s predecessor and arch-enemy, Ray Kelly, who some at Police Plaza believe was the source of the Post’s story. Both are battling for the title of Greatest NYPD Commissioner in the City's History.

While the Post reported that Kelly had used the foundation to pay the $75,000 annual expenses of the dozen or so detectives posted overseas to fight terrorism — a policy that has been widely praised and continued by Bratton — the Post ignored the fact that during Kelly’s 12 years as commissioner, the foundation paid his annual membership at the Harvard Club as well as his dining and entertainment expenses [see NYPD Confidential, Oct. 25, 2010.]

In addition, the Post omitted the fact that foundation paid an annual $96,000 fee to Hamilton South, whose job as a foundation marketing consultant morphed into that of a high-powered public relations man for Kelly as he pondered running for mayor in 2009 — before Mayor Bloomberg pulled the rug out from under him and decided to run for a third term [see NYPD Confidential, Nov. 1, 2010.] South was instrumental in introducing Kelly and his wife Veronica to wealthy, A-list New Yorkers after 2009 as well.

Founded as a “good-government” organization following the Knapp corruption scandal of the early 1970s, the Police Foundation has an independent board but has always been vulnerable to the whims and dictates of police commissioners, both for good and ill.

Shortly before he left the department in 2001, former commissioner Bernie Kerik had the foundation pay for plaster of Paris busts of himself to give to friends as souvenirs. After the PBA gave him a no-confidence vote, Howard Safir, Bratton’s successor, asked the foundation to pay for an ad in 1998 in the New York Times, supporting him. The foundation refused.

After returning as commissioner in 2002, Kelly asked the foundation to pay for an American Express card for himself. The foundation refused that.

Nobody, however, has exerted more control over the foundation than Kelly.

“He changed the culture,” says the foundation’s longtime executive director Pam Delaney, who was fired at Kelly’s instigation in 2010.

Kelly then forbade her newly promoted assistant, Gregg H. Roberts, to speak with the media. He so intimidated Roberts that for the next few years, he refused to take Delaney’s phone calls. Not until Kelly left office did he work up the courage to speak to her again.

Kelly also promoted the selection of its board chairman, Valerie Salembier, a media executive with whom he was said to have a close relationship. When her term ended and her media career finished up, he created a position for her in the police department’s public information office with the invented title of Assistant Commissioner.

Although much of the foundation’s work is welcome, from the overseas detectives to the funding of bullet-proof vests for cops, the formerly transparent organization now operates in secret without outside oversight.

“Kelly made it out that it was wrong to talk to the press,” says a former Police Foundation official who asked for anonymity. “They are continuing Kelly’s philosophy and the atmosphere he created,”

Roberts, meanwhile, spends a lot of time these days at Police Plaza in the office of Deputy Commissioner for Public Information Steve Davis, but he himself refuses to speak to reporters.

As for the City Council's investigation, if done aggressively, it will embarrass Bratton, Kelly and the Police Foundation. But don't count on it, though.

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