One Police Plaza

Safir’s wife is in eye of storm

October 20, 1997

All New Yorkers concerned about the ethical lapses of Police Commissioner Howard Safir can relax.

It turns out it wasn't Safir who accepted thousands of dollars of free legal services from the celebrity divorce lawyer Raoul Felder for settling a suit against Safir and his wife for allegedly cheating a relative out of $88,000.

Instead, while Safir refuses to speak, the jungle drums on the 14th floor of One Police Plaza, where Safir's office is located, have been pounding the name "Carol."

Carol is Safir's wife.

The drums, explained the person in the NYPD closest to Safir, say Safir has nothing to do with this.

Last Wednesday, this column reported that Felder had abstained from charging Safir his customary $450-an-hour fee for two weeks of work. "It's not because he's police commissioner. It's because he's a friend," Felder said.

Felder now says Safir "never asked me about the fee. I never dealt with him. I've never spoken to him about the case."

Rather, he says it was Carol Safir who engaged him, and apparently aware of the stratospheric Felder fee structure, told him: "I hope this will not break my back."

"I told her, We'll deal with it.' " Felder now says. "Maybe when she read about it Wednesday, she learned I wasn't going to charge her."

This column also reported last Wednesday that Section 104:3 of the police department's patrol guide prohibits department officials from accepting "any reward, gratuity, gift or other compensation for any services performed as a result of or in conjunction with their duties as public servants."

The patrol guide is so specific about this it says: "Cash rewards and personal gifts such as wristwatches are strictly forbidden."

But the patrol guide says nothing of department officials' wives. Safir may be a law school dropout, but as one chief put it, "He apparently learned something."

Safir and Mayor Rudolph Giuliani have called Felder's generosity "a private matter." That's the term Giuliani officials offered in describing the mayor's relationship with Cristyne Lategano, whom he promoted in 1995 to the newly created position of communications director at $124,000 a year.

The mayor's silence is especially delicious because 18 months ago he savaged Safir's predecessor, Bill Bratton, for accepting thousands of dollars in free plane trips from billionaire Henry Kravis and his ilk, and even ordered Corporation Counsel Paul Crotty to investigate him.

Last week, Crotty's spokeswoman Lorna Goodman said she was unaware of what Crotty had concluded and suggested the investigation ended when Bratton resigned. She also suggested there was nothing wrong with Felder comping Safir because the two were "old friends."

"I bet they went to law school together," Goodman offered.

Actually, Felder went to NYU and Safir attended Brooklyn Law.

And they're not exactly old friends, either. Felder says they met in 1994 when Giuliani became mayor. Felder is part of the Giuliani crowd and something of a police buff, packing a pistol for 30 years. He maintains the divorce trade is dangerous.

One of his clients - they've written a book and do a television show together - is Giuliani groupie Jackie Mason, whose schtick in 1989 involved disparaging racial remarks about David Dinkins, and forced Mason off the Giuliani campaign trail. Mason still receives first-class treatment at One Police Plaza. Recently, he was whisked through the Office of Public Information to obtain a coveted police press pass.

With everyone in the NYPD afraid to speak when Giuliani and Safir remain silent, we turned to a retired chief who's forgotten more about the department than Giuliani and Safir combined will ever know. "It's not a violation of law," the chief said of the Felder incident. "But he Safir is taking money, one way or the other. And it has an impact on the job. They're all talking about corruption and integrity, and here is the police commissioner who sets the example. I'd say it is not a good example."

And what of the idea of Carol, not Howard, as the recipient of Felder's largess?

"It's the same entity," the chief said. "One is the other."

Congratulations. The Policewomen's Endowment Association has announced its "Woman of the Year Award" will go to Deputy Commissioner for Public Information Marilyn Mode. Known throughout the department as Marilyn "I have nothing for you," Mode is paid $100,732 not to provide information to the public. She is believed to be the genius who gave Safir the bright idea of barring a Daily News reporter from his only in-house news conference as commissioner. More recently, she leaked the arrest record of a whistle-blower, falsely stating he'd been convicted of sodomy. It was not immediately clear which action the PEA felt merited its award.

©1997 Newsday, Inc.Reprinted with permission.