A cautionary tale for new commissioner

Roy Richter, president of the Captains Endowment Association, cited the posh Harvard Club in Manhattan in trying to reduce fines by the Conflicts of Interest Board against three NYPD chiefs. In violation of the city charter, the chiefs accepted free meals, each totaling about $600, from Thomas Galante, the former head of the Queens Public Library.

Richter said he told the board, “The public library selected the forum, which happened to be a high-end restaurant, no different from our police commissioner selecting the Harvard Club as a forum for a meeting.”

“I never used [Ray] Kelly’s or [Bill] Bratton’s name” before the board, Richter said, referring to NYPD’s last two commissioners. The nonprofit Police Foundation — created as an anti-corruption measure — paid for Kelly’s and Bratton’s club memberships and entertainment.

It’s unclear whether Richter’s argument influenced the board’s recent decision to fine each of the NYPD officials — now-Chief of Personnel Diana Pizzuti, Housing Chief James Secreto and retired Transportation Chief James Tuller — $1,500 for accepting the freebies. The charter bars civil servants from accepting gifts of more than $50. One meal included a $200 birthday cake for Pizzuti’s husband in 2013 paid by Galante, who has been accused of using library funds to pay personal expenses.

The board has fined two commissioners for violating ethics rules. In 2000, Howard Safir was ordered to pay $7,000 — the cost of a trip for him and his wife to the Academy Awards paid for by a Revlon Corp. executive. In 2002, the board fined Bernard Kerik $2,500 for having a detective and sergeant take trips to Ohio on department time to research his autobiography.

The board took no action against Kelly, who had the foundation pay nearly $40,000 for him at the Harvard Club between 2002 and 2013. The foundation paid up to $47,999 for Bratton at the club, according to his 2014 disclosure forms.

“A police commissioner needs a place to take guests,” said a top chief under Kelly who spoke on condition of anonymity to speak freely about the expenses. “You can’t expect a civil servant to put their hand in their pocket.”

Fortunately for the city, new Commissioner James O’Neill has shown no inclination to become a Harvard man. Not yet, anyway.


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