One Police Plaza

A slow-going probe of Safir

September 20, 1999

It has been six months now since Oscar Howard-also known as Police Commissioner Safir-was flown to Hollywood with his wife, Carol, on a Revlon corporate jet by the company's chief executive, George Fellows.

Fellows also comped the Safirs for the weekend at a four-star Beverly Hills hotel and provided them with tickets to the Academy Awards.

Since then, Mayor Rudolph Giuliani has begun a so-called investigation, more accurately known as the four-corners Giuliani stall, of the propriety of Safir's freebie trip-estimated cost to Revlon: $7,000.

For the record, the City Charter prevents public employees from accepting gifts of $50 or more unless the gift is from "a close personal friend." That's what Safir maintains Fellows is, although the two met only in 1998. Also for the record: In 1996, Safir's predecessor, Bill Bratton, repaid $12,000 to his rich friends for his freebie trips. Giuliani used the issue of those trips to force Bratton's resignation.

As for Safir, two city agencies supposedly are conducting parallel investigations - the Office of the Corporation Counsel and the Conflicts of Interest Board. Some city officials are pointing the finger of delay at the latter. The suggestion is that the reason for the delay is that two Conflicts of Interest Board members were federal prosecutors under Giuliani. One of those is Chairman Benito Romano, who, although now with the white-shoe firm of Wilkie, Farr & Gallagher, is apparently unable to forget his debt to Giuliani for recommending that Romano replace Giuliani as U.S. attorney a decade ago-which Romano did for a nanosecond until a permanent successor was appointed. (Romano didn't return a phone call.) Asked how the mayor could miraculously rescue the city from decades of crime but cannot complete a relatively simple investigation of a crony, a person involved in that investigation told One Police Plaza: "Write that. Write those exact words. It could be very helpful."

And That's Not All, Folks. Last month, Richard Davis-who heads yet another impotent mayoral panel, this one called the Commission to Combat Police Corruption-agreed to investigate l'affaire de Jay Creditor.

Creditor is the cop and union delegate who was dismissed by Trial Commissioner Rae Koshetz for missing 200 hours of work over a six-month period. Three days later, he was reinstated after paying a $50,000 fine, then immediately retired on a tax-free line-of-duty disability pension-lifetime value: $1.4 million.

Police documents indicate that former First Deputy Tosano Simonetti authorized Creditor's reinstatement. His signature as acting police commissioner replaced that of Safir, who was undergoing heart surgery the day of the dismissal. But for reasons that are unclear, Safir first said he had nothing to do with the reinstatement, then insisted it was he who instigated the move by ordering Koshetz to negotiate the case.

Last week, Davis said he would not issue a report on his Creditor findings but would instead "fold it into a broader study" that he would release next year.

Did he mean January or February? Said Davis: More like August.

Seen. (At Inspector Bob Cividanes' retirement party after 35 years on the job): Former Assistant Chief Larry (Lugubrious) Loesch. Lugubrious retired last year with a line-of-duty disability pension that pays him $100,000 a year, tax-free.

He now heads security for Paine Webber, which pays him a six-figure salary.

First Deputy Commissioner Patrick (Pusillanimous) Kelleher. Pat's still trembling when Safir's shadow passes.

Retired Sgt. Ed (Pajama) Burns. While working the midnight tour in the office of public information, Burns-whose brother was then first vice president of the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association-would lock the door and greet callers in his pajamas.

Holies and Hoi Polloi. Commissioner Safir's private elevator at One Police Plaza, reserved for him and other holiest of the holies, is supposedly under repair. So Safir has commandeered the department's freight elevator. A sign there reads: "ABSOLUTELY NO FREIGHT ON THE FREIGHT ELEVATOR." Two uniformed armed officers are assigned full time to guard the elevator and to accompany the holies as they go up and down.

©1999 Newsday, Inc.Reprinted with permission.