Tag: New York City Police Foundation
New York City’s Conflict of Interest Law seems pretty straightforward.
And it appears that Police Commissioner Ray Kelly has violated it.
The law “prohibits public servants for using or appearing to use their City positions for their own personal benefit.”
It continues: “To comply with the law, you cannot use your City position to gain any private advantage for yourself…”
Over the past eight years, as this column reported, the New York City Police Foundation has paid more than $12,000 to cover Kelly’s dues and meals for guests at the Harvard Club.
Kelly has refused to disclose, even to the foundation, who these guests were.
Over the past four years, as this column reported, the Police Foundation has also paid $400,000 to a publicist, whose job has been to get Kelly favorable media coverage and to introduce him to the rich and famous. All this as Kelly considered a run for mayor in 2009 and may be considering another run in 2013.
Former Mayor Ed Koch, for one, says he believes Kelly will run. The publicist, Hamilton South, remains on the foundation payroll, earning an annual $96,000 fee, plus expenses.
In accepting these foundation freebies, Kelly seems to be encouraging the very behavior he prevented other police-friendly organizations from doing.
Returning as police commissioner in 2002 following Bernie Kerik — who so blatantly accepted gifts that he is now serving four years in federal prison — Kelly seemed almost saintly in refusing to tolerate the slightest appearance of impropriety.
He was so sensitive to appearances that in December, 2002, he bailed out at the last moment from a dinner honoring Chief of Department Joe Esposito, which was hosted at the Pierre Hotel by the Finest Foundation, one of the smaller police-friendly groups on the department’s fringes.
Not only did Kelly refuse to attend, he barred all the top brass from attending.
The Finest Foundation was forced to cancel the dinner. It lost its $10,000 deposit to the Pierre plus $39,000 in non-refundable expenses.
Kelly’s stated reason for bailing out was that the Finest’s invitations offered $5,000 tables for a “Lieutenant’s Package,” $25,000 tables for a “Chief’s Package,” and $50,000 tables for a “Commissioner’s Package.”
As Kelly explained to the foundation, “The invitation to the event raises a number of concerns, including the appearance that access to ranking law enforcement officials, would be guaranteed based on the level of contribution.”
Now, eight years later, what has happened to Kelly?
He seems to have been “using or appearing to use” his city position for his own personal benefit, via the Police Foundation at the Harvard Club. He also seems to have been “using or appearing to use” his city position to seek access to the city’s elite while considering a run for mayor. Those elites are potential political contributors for him.
In those eight years, something else has changed. With no one at City Hall reigning him in, Kelly has appears to have taken control of the Police Foundation.
He has forced out its longtime executive director, given his wife a non-paying role, created a police scholarship in his name and convinced the foundation not to speak publicly for itself but instead to have media queries answered by the police department.
In that regard, he seems to have used or appears to have used his city position to turn the Police Foundation into a professional slush fund for himself.
KELLY, SAFIR AND KERIK. Two cases involving former police commissioners may prove instructive in determining whether the current commissioner has breached the city’s ethical guidelines. The two cases may also prove instructive in determining whether the city will actively pursue a case against him.
Let’s start with Howard Safir’s free Oscar trip and weekend hotel comp by the Revlon Corporation’s CEO back in 1999.
“A public official, particularly a high-ranking public official such as yourself, should studiously avoid any conduct that undermines the public trust and confidence in government,” the Conflicts of Interest Board wrote.
Although Safir maintained he was vindicated because he was not charged with a crime, he was pressured into repaying Revlon’s CEO $7,100 for the cost of the trip. His spokeswoman said at the time that Safir did so to avoid any hint of impropriety.
Then there was Kerik.
Current Department of Investigation Commissioner Rose Gil Hearn nailed him for obtaining free renovations to his Bronx apartment, then referred the case to the Bronx District Attorney, where Kerik pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor. The feds turned it into a felony and he’s now serving four years in federal prison.
But there’s a huge difference between Gil Hearn’s nailing Kerik and her nailing Kelly.
Although Kelly may have violated the city’s ethical guidelines, at least at this point he doesn’t appear to have committed a crime.
Perhaps more important, however, is that when Gil Hearn investigated Kerik, he was no longer in office.
Will Gil Hearn aggressively investigate a sitting police commissioner, especially one as vindictive as Kelly?
Will Gil Hearn also be willing to take on Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has provided Kelly with more power and less accountability than any police commissioner in the city’s modern history?
In short, taking on Kelly also means taking on her boss.
ONE YEAR. This weekend marks exactly one year that whistle-blower cop Adrian Schoolcraft was released from his forced six day stay in Jamaica Hospital’s psychiatric ward.
Police had dragged him there after he produced evidence that his Brooklyn precinct was fudging crime statistics.
He had secretly tape-recorded roll call meetings at the 81st precinct where supervisors had ordered cops to downgrade felonies to misdemeanors and to ignore citizens’ complaints for other crimes.
Five supervisors in the precinct, including its former commanding officer, have subsequently been charged with manipulating crime statistics.
Yet in the past year, no one from the police department has offered an explanation for Schoolcraft’s forced incarceration inside the mental ward.
No one has been held accountable.
No governmental agency has begun an investigation.
Neither Kelly nor Mayor Bloomberg has uttered one word.
No one has even offered an apology.
Not one governmental official has called for an investigation into what may be a blatant department crime: systemic statistical abuses throughout the city’s police precincts.
So far, the only official who has reached out to Schoolcraft is Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, whose special assistant recently telephoned, asking how de Blasio might help.
But de Blasio’s interest may be ephemeral.
His spokesman said last week that Schoolcraft’s father “recently reached out to our office on his son’s behalf but he and the Public Advocate have not managed to connect.”
In a town where a cop can’t accept a free cup of coffee, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly has been eating and drinking for free for the past eight years at the Harvard Club.
Kelly hasn’t paid for his meals or drinks at the exclusive midtown spot on West 44th Street since 2002 when he returned as commissioner.
Nor have his guests.
Kelly also doesn’t pay his club’s dues, which come to about $1,500 a year.
Instead, the non-profit New York City Police Foundation has been picking up Kelly’s tab, says a well-placed source.
Despite this arrangement, which mirrors the kind of freebies that have landed other police commissioners in difficulty, Kelly has snubbed the hand that feeds him. He has refused the requests of foundation board members to name the guests whose food and drink they have been covering.
“There is no disclosure about whom he has taken out,” according to the source.
“There was grumbling by the board at first but they have gone along. They will not take him on. He is now in control of the foundation.”
As Police Foundation Chairman Valerie Salembier, a senior vice president of the Hearst Corporation, has been known to say of Kelly, “I can’t say no to him.”
Neither she nor executive director Greg Roberts returned calls to this reporter.
Kelly’s spokesman Paul Browne did not respond to an email asking about Kelly’s Harvard Club arrangement.
At Kelly’s urging, the foundation has also issued credit cards to the department’s precinct commanders. The stated reason: to ensure they would not be beholden to others either for meals and to reimburse them for out-of-pocket emergency supplies.
In contrast to Kelly, the commanders are limited to $100 a month and have to report their expenditures and how the money was spent to the department.
The foundation was begun in the wake of the 70′s-era Knapp Commission scandal to help the police commissioner cope with the department’s longstanding corruption by funding projects privately to bypass the city’s cumbersome approval process.
In its 39-year existence, Kelly is believed to be the only police commissioner to ask the foundation to pay his dues and expenses at a private club.
His expenditures, said the source, are not identified in foundation filings but are lumped together with “incidental” expenditures.
The Harvard Club, with the notable exception of former Governor Eliot Spitzer, is open to anyone with a Harvard degree.
Kelly earned an MPA, a Masters Degree in Public Administration, from Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government while a member of the NYPD.
At the Harvard Club, Kelly can eat in its main dining room for breakfast, lunch or dinner; in its Grill Room, which serves lunch Monday through Friday; or in the Balcony, which, according to the club website “offers a dramatic view of the Main Dining Room” and serves “lighter fare, such as sandwiches, soup and a salad bar” and where a “discrete display of business papers is also permitted.”
Kelly can drink in the club’s Charles River Room, which offers a full-service bar from 4 to 11 p.m. or at the Main Bar, which is decorated with Harvard memorabilia and which, according to the club website, offers “classic cocktails, complimentary snacks and good cheer.”
Kelly’s Harvard freebies appear to contradict department policy, at least as it applies to other police officers, who since the Knapp Commission have been prohibited from accepting even a free hot dog.
The Patrol Guide’s section 203-16 reads: “It is the policy of the Department that members of the service may not accept any reward, gratuity, gift or other compensation for any service performed as a result of or in conjunction with their duties as public servants. … Members of the service also shall not solicit any gift, gratuity, loan, present, fee or reward for personal gain.”
City employees are also prohibited from accepting gifts of $50 or more from a person or a company doing business with the city.
Top police officials, however, have found themselves in trouble for accepting gifts, even when the giver does no city business.
One of the corruption charges that sent former NYPD Commissioner Bernie Kerik to prison for four years, was his failure to report or pay income tax on the free use of an apartment, owned by a person with no known business dealings with the city.
Former First Deputy John Timoney, while chief of the Miami police department, accepted a free leased car from a dealer who did no business with the city. Although Timoney subsequently purchased the car at full price, he was criticized over the incident for the rest of his term.
Former Commissioner Howard Safir ran into trouble with the city’s Conflict of Interest Board for a freebie trip he took to the 1999 Oscars that was paid for by Revlon Corporation CEO George Fellows. Safir and his wife flew free on the company jet and Fellows paid for their stay at a four-star hotel.
Although Revlon did virtually no business with the city, a report from the corporation counsel recommended that Safir reimburse Fellows $7100 for the junket to avoid an appearance of impropriety.
Then there was former NYPD Deputy Commissioner Ed Norris, who while serving as Baltimore’s police commissioner was indicted on charges of stealing thousands of dollars from a secret police department fund. Norris used the money for affairs with women, trips to New York, meals at upscale restaurants and luxury hotels. He served six months in prison.
Kelly, however, is held to a different standard than other police officials.
In part, this is because the city’s billionaire mayor, Michael Bloomberg, has provided the perks.
Bloomberg has piloted Kelly to Kelly’s Florida home on Bloomberg’s jet.
Bloomberg also provided Kelly with front row Yankee seats in Bloomberg’s box during last year’s World Series. (A state ethics panel reprimanded Governor Paterson for accepting free tickets to the same World Series.)
At last Tuesday night’s Yankee playoff game against Texas, Kelly was seen sitting in the first row.
At the same time, police sources say that a contingent of Internal Affairs detectives were in place at the stadium to prevent cops from attending the game for free.
Police sources say Kelly was a member of the Harvard Club while serving as First Deputy Commissioner in the 1990s and allowed his boss, then Commissioner Lee Brown, to use his account there, then grumbled that Brown was late in reimbursing him.
“When he returned as police commissioner in 2002, he requested an American Express card from the police foundation but was turned down,” said another source. “The foundation then agreed to his request that it pay his Harvard Club dues and expenses.”
“I am sure his refusal to disclose comes from the same rationale that he justifies to hide his public schedule,” said the source familiar with the arrangement at the Harvard Club. “And it would be wrong for the same reasons. There is no reason he shouldn’t disclose who he takes to lunch or dinner. What message does it send to the troops?
“But there is no accountability regarding the appropriateness of his guests, and the board of the police foundation is afraid to take him on.”
Said a former top police official: “His not disclosing who he took to lunch or dinner may be harmless but it gives the appearance of Kelly’s placing himself above all rules and regulations, making him the sole arbiter or what is correct for himself.
“At the minimum, he should hold himself to the same standards as his commanders.
“Did he [Kelly] go the Harvard Club for Christmas or New Years? Did he take his wife and children? He bristles at any kind of oversight. He gets away with it because no one at City Hall has the courage to stand up to him, including the mayor. Especially the mayor.”
SEVEN SHOTS: An NYPD Raid on a Terrorist Cell and Its Aftermath by Jennifer C. Hunt portrays the best and the worst of the NYPD.
On July 31, 1997, a six-man Emergency Service team raided a Brooklyn apartment, whose inhabitants were just hours away from entering the Atlantic Avenue subway station and detonating bombs during the morning rush hour.
When two officers entered the bedroom, the suspects lunged for one of them, then moved towards a black bag that the officers believed contained the bombs. The officers fired their weapons, critically wounded the would-be bombers. Two bomb squad technicians then dismantled what turned out to be a live bomb.
It was the NYPD at its finest.
But that is just the beginning of the story told by Hunt, a sociologist and police expert, who was granted extraordinary access to the participants in telling her story.
If the raid showed the NYPD at its best, the aftermath, as Hunt chronicles, showed the NYPD at its worst.
Fearing for their safety and that of their families, the officers balked at attending a news conference with Police Commissioner Safir.
Safir took that as a personal insult and retaliated by denying them promotions and by trying to keep them from being honored at the White House.
Meanwhile, writes Hunt, jealous members of the officers’ units blocked their promotions and targeted them for harassment. Men who should have been praised as heroes instead had their careers sabotaged by forces within the department itself.
The country paid an even bigger price. Intent on downgrading the officers’ accomplishments, Safir and then mayor Rudy Giuliani downplayed the incident and failed to adequately alert the public to its significance as a terrorism threat.
Hunt’s fast-paced narrative leaves us with many questions. Perhaps the most important is this: had Safir and Giuliani reacted differently, might we have been better prepared for 9/11?