Government Lies, Corruption and Mismanagement
After Too Many Improprieties are Finally Exposed, Bernard Kerik Quits Rudy's New Company
Mr. Kerik had a double life, it seems, but New York Mayor Rudy Guiliani knew "nothing about it". That's the scary part. The "Kerik Scandal" will hang over Bernie's and Rudy's heads for a long time, because it showed that there was a friendship that overrode public safety and the Law.
December 23, 2004
Citing Debacle Over Nomination, Kerik Quits Giuliani Partnership
By WILLIAM K. RASHBAUM and JIM DWYER, NY TIMES
Twelve bruising days after the collapse of his nomination as secretary of homeland security, Bernard B. Kerik yesterday abruptly announced his departure from his position at former Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani's consulting company, saying his troubles had become a distraction for the business.
Mr. Kerik's announcement, at a hastily called news conference on the sidewalk outside the Pierre hotel on Fifth Avenue, ended a spectacular fall from a career apex on Dec. 3 when President Bush nominated him for the cabinet position.
It severs a lucrative professional relationship with his mentor, Mr. Giuliani, who made him first correction commissioner and then police commissioner and who helped make Mr. Kerik a wealthy man in the law enforcement consulting field. Mr. Kerik became a national figure after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, writing a best-selling book and earning the admiration of President Bush, who sent him to Iraq in 2003 as interim minister of the interior to rebuild that nation's police force.
Within days of his cabinet nomination, Mr. Kerik, 49, was besieged by a series of news reports citing a variety of legal, personal and ethical problems that could haunt him if he tries to find a similar consulting job.
While he was New York City correction commissioner, the reports said, he spoke up for an employee of a construction company accused of business ties to organized crime that was seeking a city license. He was also accused of receiving thousands of dollars in cash gifts from the employee, an old friend.
Newspapers and magazines began writing about his earlier romantic relationships, his earlier declaration of bankruptcy, and his connections to companies that do business with the Homeland Security Department.
Mr. Kerik, who served as police commissioner from Aug. 19, 2000, until Dec. 31, 2002, said he had decided to resign immediately from his positions as senior vice president of Giuliani Partners L.L.C. and chief executive of Giuliani-Kerik L.L.C., an affiliate. He said the furor that followed the Dec. 10 withdrawal of his nomination - when he said he discovered he had not paid taxes for a nanny and did not know her immigration status - was beginning to affect the firm.
"The events surrounding my withdrawal have become unfair, and an unnecessary distraction to the firm and most importantly to the work that they do at the firm," he said. He added: "I'm confident that I will be vindicated from any allegations of wrongdoing."
He was more forceful shortly afterward in a brief telephone interview.
"Whatever mistakes I made, I should answer for, and not Giuliani," Mr. Kerik said. "I don't like the fact that he is being criticized and attacked because of me. It's unfair, and it's wrong."
Minutes after Mr. Kerik delivered his brief sidewalk statement, Mr. Giuliani called a news conference outside the offices of Giuliani Partners in Times Square. Appearing pained and downcast, Mr. Giuliani said he had unhappily accepted Mr. Kerik's resignation. He called him a "wonderful man" who has "done great things for this country," and described the bond the two men formed in the crucible of the 9/11 attacks.
He also said he supported Mr. Kerik's decision, although he denied he had pushed him out.
"He made a decision to resign and I agreed with that," Mr. Giuliani said. "I think he made the right decision."
The series of troublesome reports about Mr. Kerik had inevitably become problems for Mr. Giuliani, who apologized to President Bush after Mr. Kerik withdrew. After the White House endured criticism for failing to scrutinize Mr. Kerik's background, many of the same questions were raised about Mr. Giuliani's knowledge of his commissioner's actions. Many of the same people who worked closely with Mr. Giuliani and were involved in Mr. Kerik's appointments as commissioner are also principals at Mr. Giuliani's firm, which among other things advises clients on crisis management and internal security.
One person knowledgeable about the situation inside Giuliani Partners said that Mr. Kerik had offered to resign very soon after he withdrew his nomination, but that Mr. Giuliani had told him it was premature. By yesterday morning, however, Mr. Giuliani had made it clear that he wanted Mr. Kerik to leave, according to the person, who asked not to be identified for professional reasons.
Asked if Mr. Giuliani had requested Mr. Kerik's resignation, Sunny Mindel, a spokeswoman for Giuliani Partners, said that both men had made it clear that it was Mr. Kerik's decision alone.
After the announcement, Ms. Mindel issued a terse statement explaining the reorganization of the partnership. The statement said that Giuliani-Kerik L.L.C. was being renamed Giuliani Safety and Security, and named a number of other public safety and legal experts who would run the company.
Mr. Kerik, according to an associate, will remain on the board of Taser International, a stun-gun manufacturer that sells products to the Homeland Security Department and that compensated him with stock options he sold for a profit of more than $6 million. He also plans to write another book, the associate said, and will help write a screenplay of a movie being made from his memoir.
Mr. Kerik, wearing a trim blue window-pane suit and a red patterned tie, took no questions after making his remarks at a lectern set up on the sidewalk behind velvet ropes. Normally a voluble man, he seemed circumspect and his voice wavered slightly as he read his statement.
He said he told Mr. Giuliani about his decision earlier in the afternoon and thanked the former mayor for his friendship.
"I want to apologize to my family, my friends, the president - President Bush - Mayor Giuliani for the difficulty that the recent events have caused all of them," he said.
After Mr. Kerik withdrew from the cabinet post, the issue of the nanny, whose name and nationality were never released, became obscured by far more serious questions about his actions as a high-ranking city official. The city's Department of Investigation said he failed to file a background questionnaire, as was usually required, when he was promoted from correction commissioner to police commissioner. Investigation Department officials were seeking to determine why a body of negative information the agency had gathered about Mr. Kerik was apparently never considered by City Hall before Mr. Giuliani elevated him to the police post in 2000.
Mr. Giuliani said yesterday that he was more sad than angry at Mr. Kerik, and that they would remain friends.
"This is something that he'll be able to recover from," Mr. Giuliani said. "He will address the issues. It will take time - meaning months, whatever a process like this takes. I believe he will successfully address the issues that are raised, and then I think he will re-emerge a better man."
Christopher Drew and David W. Chen contributed reporting for this article
Kerik's pal and co-worker at Giuliani Partners, John Picciano, quits one day after Bernie. The investigation continues, as does the possible wrong-doing:
KERIK PAL BOLTS
By JOHN DOYLE and RICH CALDER, NY POST, December 24, 2004
A longtime associate of Bernard Kerik quit Rudy Giuliani's consulting firm yesterday, a day after the embattled former police commissioner abruptly resigned from the company.
Sunny Mindel, a Giuliani spokeswoman, said John Picciano left Giuliani Partners on "very good terms and on his own volition."
She added that the firm has "very good relations with him and we wish him well" but declined to comment on whether Kerik and Picciano's departures are connected.
Picciano worked as Kerik's chief of staff when Kerik headed the city's Correction Department and later the NYPD. He followed Kerik to Giuliani Partners in 2002.
Controversy has followed Picciano the past decade. He got away with breaking a tax regulation similar to one that led to the arrest or dismissal of more than 100 correction officers in the late 1990s.
A female correction officer accused him of domestic violence but later withdrew her complaint. And he has declared bankruptcy several times.
Sources also have told The Post that the city's Department of Investigations has jumped in on an NYPD probe of a $200,000 purchase of four high-security doors when Kerik was police commissioner. Picciano and Edward Asward, another top Kerik aide at the time, are the focus of the probe.
Picciano was unavailable for comment.
Meanwhile, dressed in a blazer and dark overcoat yesterday, Kerik strolled out of Nello's on Madison Avenue with his lawyer, Joseph Tacopina, at his side.
"Just Christmas shopping," was all a smiling Kerik would say as he slipped into a waiting car.
Tacopina said Kerik already has job offers.
"I've had just a few phone calls over the last 24 hours," said Tacopina. "He's going to be OK. Here's a guy that the president picked to keep this country safe, and he's now on the market."
Kerik's scandal-plagued Homeland Security nomination hurt Giuliani, a rising star in the Republican Party who had recommended his friend and business partner to President Bush. Giuliani later personally apologized to the president for the fiasco.
Bush on Dec. 3 tapped Kerik to head Homeland Security. But Kerik abruptly withdrew his name Dec. 10, saying he suddenly realized he had neglected to pay taxes for a nanny he employed who might have been in the country illegally.
A rash of other scandals soon followed, including reports that he had connections with people suspected of doing business with the mob and that he had simultaneous extramarital affairs with two women.
Kerik's missteps may trip Giuliani
Politics: The nomination fiasco could tarnish the ex-New York mayor's reputation as a leader.
By Ellen Gamerman, Baltimore Sun National Staff, December 20, 2004
WASHINGTON - The promotional material for Rudolph W. Giuliani's consulting firm includes inspirational sayings from the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Winston Churchill, Gen. George S. Patton and Edward R. Murrow. The musings of only one living public figure are quoted high up there with those legends - those from Giuliani himself.
"Nothing builds confidence in a leader more than a willingness to take responsibility for what happens during his watch," Giuliani's quote reads, under the banner "Accountability." Watchwords such as these have helped sustain the heroic Giuliani image long after 9/11, bringing his firm colossal business contracts and fueling speculation that New York's former mayor could become the country's next president.
But lately that "accountability" quote may seem more ironic than iconic. The scandal surrounding Giuliani ally Bernard Kerik - the former New York City police commissioner whose nomination to lead the Department of Homeland Security imploded this month - has put the first bit of tarnish on Giuliani's post-9/11 image.
The question remains whether the Giuliani imprimatur will retain its value. Giuliani Partners, the security consulting business Giuliani opened in 2002 after leaving the mayor's office, got hot in part because Giuliani emphasized the expertise of its executives - a team that included Kerik and several other public safety officials who helped oversee the recovery efforts after the World Trade Center attacks.
The former mayor has traded heavily on his connection to Ground Zero, with clients that include insurance and risk-management company Aon; Nextel Communications, whose cellular systems are used by many first responders; and Strohl Systems, which sells business recovery software for responding to attacks.
But more recently, Giuliani has been expanding his empire. Two days before President Bush named Kerik as his pick for the top job at Homeland Security, Giuliani announced that he had bought Ernst & Young Corporate Finance to start an investment banking firm called Giuliani Capital Advisors. In a press release, he cited the experience of his team of senior executives - including Kerik - as turning the city into a "worldwide example of good government and effective management."
That sound bite doesn't go down so well with Kerik's lapses and Giuliani's reported failure to have the city conduct a background check on him before he became commissioner of the largest police force in the world. Over the past week, Kerik has been accused of using an apartment intended for exhausted 9/11 rescuers to meet two mistresses, getting entangled with a construction company under investigation for alleged Mafia ties, hiding a third marriage from his much-publicized life story and other unsavory conduct.
"What the Kerik affair did more than anything else is cast doubt on Giuliani's judgment," said Marshall Wittmann, a former Republican staffer and now a senior fellow at the Democratic Leadership Council. "He recommended an associate who clearly had a questionable past. Prior to Kerik, Rudy was the closest you could get in politics to sainthood. Now, Kerik has put in stark relief all of Rudy's political baggage."
Giuliani has survived bad PR before. Though 9/11 turned him into "America's mayor," before the attacks Giuliani was getting kicked out of Gracie Mansion because of an adulterous affair. He was known for going after edgy Brooklyn art exhibits that offended his morality or battling charges that he fired police Commissioner William Bratton because some believed the top officer overshadowed him in battling crime.
Though the one-time prosecutor took bold steps to reduce crime in the city, cleaned up the streets and developed a reputation for efficient government, critics attacked Giuliani's inner circle, accusing him of surrounding himself with loyalists ever eager to protect their own.
But the Sept. 11 attacks reinvented Giuliani. His leadership and his public safety team became linked with images of firefighters and police officers running into burning buildings. In the aftermath, Giuliani became a public face of the heroes.
The relationship between Giuliani and Kerik drew admiration in that disaster. But the Kerik debacle opens Giuliani's leadership style to new scrutiny. Critics say that 9/11 immunized Giuliani but that the way he ran his government was suspect.
"Anytime anyone in the city looked to blow the whistle about Giuliani, he looked to demonize them and make them a target - so there were people who were very reluctant to say anything until after Giuliani was gone," said Richard Steier - editor of The Chief Leader, a news weekly aimed at city government employees. Steier added that Giuliani foes had a motto about his administration: "The connected get protected."
Several calls to Giuliani spokeswoman Sunny Mindel were not returned last week. Giuliani has apologized to Bush for the flap that has surrounded Kerik's nomination and has tried to navigate the fallout by criticizing his friend.
"I told him, 'You made some very big mistakes here, and you would have saved yourself and a lot of others some trouble if you had dealt with this earlier,'" the former mayor told New York's Daily News. "I remain his friend, and I remain confident that he will be able to work his way through this. But he has a fair amount of explaining to do."
Such news could detract from the story of Giuliani and his fellow generals after the attacks and threaten Giuliani's political future. Time magazine's former Person of the Year - a star at this year's Republican National Convention, a leader of one of New York's top consulting firms, a Manhattan A-lister who parties with the Yankees - is forced into a position of damage control.
As far as national politics, the Kerik fiasco opens a door for conservative skeptics looking for reasons to oppose the socially liberal Giuliani.
"It's very difficult for a pro-choice, pro-gay rights Republican to win the nomination for president," said John Pitney, a political scientist at Claremont McKenna College. "Giuliani needs to keep the memory of 9/11 alive. That's his hope, and that's the reason why he got such cheers at the Republican convention. That means a lot of his past troubles are behind him, but in politics the past is never really gone."
May not damage Giuliani
But some Republicans say the Kerik affair doesn't necessarily damage Giuliani.
"The worst place you could possibly be four years out from a presidential election is to be the perceived front-runner, because that means you've got four years of everyone else trying to take you down. So, to the degree that this takes some of the pressure off Giuliani this far out, it could end up being fairly beneficial to him," said one Republican strategist who asked not to be named because he intends to work for a GOP candidate in the next presidential campaign. "I don't think the negative of it is enough to kill him."
Last week, though, conservatives were picking at the Giuliani image.
"I don't think this Kerik thing is over," said Mike Long, head of New York's Conservative Party. "Every day there seem to be new revelations. It was on the mayor's watch. It reflects on him. This was his police commissioner. Are you trying to tell me the mayor of the city of New York doesn't know what his police commissioner is doing?"
To friends of Giuliani, Kerik's image problem hurts only Kerik. Giuliani, they argue, lived his three decades in public life guided by what his company's Web site calls "Giuliani leadership principles": integrity, objectivity, loyalty, creativity and accountability.
"I just don't think that this issue that [Giuliani] is dealing with now will really have much of an impact on his future in politics," said Thomas Von Essen, a senior vice president at Giuliani Partners and the former New York City fire commissioner who helped lead the recovery efforts after the World Trade Center attacks. "It would be really shortsighted or unfair to think that the mistakes of one of his associates would have any impact at all on the good that has been accomplished over these last 30 years."
Some clients also reaffirmed their trust in Giuliani last week.
"Nothing has happened to take away the expertise and skill of Mr. Giuliani and his firm," said Jeff Trewhitt, a spokesman for the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America. Giuliani Partners prepared a report backing the drug industry trade group's contention that importing drugs from Canada poses health and safety risks.
But public image is at the heart of Giuliani's business. Last year, the data-mining software company Cognos essentially thanked Giuliani for taking it on as a client. Cognos President and CEO Rob Ashe said the association with a firm "as well respected as the Giuliani Group" would "cement Cognos' leadership status."
For Giuliani's clients, the association was supposed to deliver access. Several Giuliani press releases - including one last year about the new partnership with Bear Stearns Merchant Banking, which planned to allocate $300 million for public safety projects - name Kerik as a top expert who will help handle the case.
"We believe the value of Giuliani Partners' access to proprietary opportunities and the expert advice they will bring to our portfolio companies will result in superior returns," John Howard, head of Bear Stearns Merchant Banking, said in a statement.
Von Essen, the Giuliani Partners executive and former city fire chief who lost 343 members of his department in the Sept. 11 attacks, says Giuliani and his firm will retain a commanding reputation despite the Kerik issue. In an interview before Kerik's nomination fell apart, Von Essen described the mission that he believes drives men like him and Kerik and Giuliani.
"We had an unusual group working with Mayor Giuliani and Bernie and myself - maybe it comes from the overwhelming losses that we had of people that we cared about so much that makes us feel like we have an obligation," he said. "You can aggressively pursue business, but what is more important than anything is to do something to make this country safe. It might sound corny, but I know we really believe that."
Copyright © 2004, The Baltimore Sun
Kerik's e-mail messages
DOI to get memos offering inside info
on city contracts and a mob probe
By RUSS BUETTNER, DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER, December 19, 2004
Former Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik is likely to face fresh questions about his conduct this week when explosive E-mails are turned over to city investigators, the Daily News has learned.
The messages were sent by Kerik to Lawrence Ray, one of his closest friends and the best man at his 1998 wedding.
They could prove another headache for Kerik. The E-mails provided to The News appear to show Kerik offering a company inside details of a city investigation into its mob links and advance notice of upcoming city contracts.
Ray says he is prepared to turn over the E-mails to the city's Department of Investigation this week.
Last week, DOI announced a probe of Kerik, who withdrew his nomination to become President Bush's secretary of homeland security on Dec 10.
Stories published in The News in the week since showed that Kerik failed to report thousands of dollars in gifts, developed close ties to Interstate Industrial - the company with alleged mob links - and carried on two simultaneous extramarital affairs in a secret downtown apartment.
After several months of inquiries from The News, Ray recently allowed the newspaper to see the E-mails he said he received from Kerik. The News viewed the E-mails in Ray's America Online folder. They showed no signs of having been altered.
Neither Kerik nor his lawyer responded to calls seeking comment.
The E-mails in Ray's possession portray a troubling mix of official duties and private interests, especially considering how close Kerik came to an extremely sensitive national post.
Ray says that many of the dozens of E-mails he has kept were sent in 1999, when Kerik headed the city's jails, and just after Interstate had hired Ray and Kerik's brother, Don.
Interstate's owner, Frank DiTomasso, who has long denied links to the mob, hired Ray in late 1998, based on a recommendation from Kerik, according to a sworn deposition DiTomasso gave city investigators in June 2000.
Ray's job at Interstate was to ease the minds of mob-wary regulators.
Many of the E-mails were announcements about Kerik's television appearances or dispatches from vacations. But others could be of interest to DOI.
Ray says that one E-mail suggests that Kerik planned to pass along inside information from a city investigation into Interstate.
Another passage, Rays says, shows Kerik guiding him on how to help Interstate with the city's Trade Waste Commission.
In the E-mail Kerik suggested that Ray push a security firm that Interstate had just hired, Copstat, which was run by former NYPD officials.
The E-mail also suggests that Kerik was involved in Interstate's hiring of his brother.
A later E-mail, dated May 11, 1999, indicates that Kerik wanted to give DiTomasso inside information about city contracts.
The E-mail says: "I've got to talk to Frank about that project. The smallest contract was in fact issued, however there's about five more equivalent contracts coming up over the next two years."
City ethics rules forbid employees from giving out confidential city information.
The News reported last week that Ray and another Kerik friend, Carmen Cabell, gave Kerik gifts worth thousands of dollars, including paying much of the tab for his 1998 wedding reception.
Kerik failed to report the gifts on his financial disclosure forms, as city regulations require.
The E-mails Ray says were sent by Kerik also show him asking for additional financial help.
KERIK TAX 'BREAK'
By RICH CALDER, NY POST, December 19, 2004
December 19, 2004 -- A city correction officer romantically linked to Bernard Kerik when he was correction commissioner got away with breaking tax rules that led to more than 100 of her co-workers being arrested or fired in a 1990s scandal, The Post has learned.
Jeanette Pinero filed W-4 forms from 1992 to 1995 declaring 99 exemptions, a maneuver that increased her take-home pay and allowed her to delay paying income tax, city records show. Hundreds of Pinero's co-workers did the same thing, but not everyone got punished.
Five of the correction officers who were fired or disciplined claimed to The Post that Pinero's lack of punishment is just one of many examples of how Kerik "selectively enforced" laws and regulations while heading the department.
"Corrections has a lot of cliques, and if you are part of that in-crowd, things won't happen to you," said Ronnie Fordham, an ex-department captain who sued Kerik and the city over being fired and charged with a felony in the scandal.
"There was a lot of favoritism, nepotism and cronyism going on in that department while Kerik was running it," Fordham added.
Kerik's lawyer, Joseph Tacopina, declined to comment.
By listing 99 exemptions, the most allowed by law, Pinero was able to avoid having more than $60,000 withheld from her paychecks over a four-year period, estimated an accountant who reviewed some of Pinero's income information for The Post.
City officials said tax-secrecy laws prevent them from knowing whether Pinero, 41, still owes taxes. But they say they presume she eventually paid up because she was never prosecuted or disciplined.
Pinero, approached Friday at home in Greenwood Lake, declined to comment on her tax filings and her relationship with Kerik, also the embattled ex-NYPD boss.
While Pinero and John Picciano, Kerik's former chief of staff, were among those who went unpunished, other city employees were not as fortunate.
Kerik, 49, became romantically involved with Pinero when he was deputy commissioner of the Correction Department in the mid-1990s.
At least 150 were disciplined in the late 1990s, including 85 correction officers who were arrested.
With assistance from the state attorney general and the Manhattan DA, the city's watchdog Department of Investigation in the mid-1990s probed a growing trend of correction employees and other city workers filing false tax claims.
Prosecutors decided who was arrested; agency commissioners determined who was disciplined internally.
Emily Gest, a Department of Investigations spokeswoman, said, "All similarly situated city employees were treated in the same manner" throughout the entire tax-fraud probe.
Additional reporting by Joe McGurk
Inquiry of Kerik in '00 Puts Focus on Vetting Issue
By ERIC LIPTON and WILLIAM K. RASHBAUM, NY TIMES, December 14, 2004
In June 2000, two months before Bernard B. Kerik was appointed police commissioner, New York City's top investigative agency learned that he had a social relationship with the owner of a New Jersey construction company suspected of having business ties to organized crime figures, city documents show.
The city's Department of Investigation took two days of testimony from Frank DiTommaso, the owner of the company, Interstate Industrial Corporation. It also formally interviewed Mr. Kerik himself. Though it is not clear what he told the investigators, there is no indication that Mr. Kerik did anything illegal or improper.
A spokesman for the Department of Investigation declined to comment yesterday when asked whether any of the information concerning Mr. Kerik and Interstate Industrial had been shared at the time with any other city officials.
But Rudolph W. Giuliani said in an interview yesterday that none of those facts were brought to his attention in August 2000 when, as mayor, he appointed Mr. Kerik as New York's top police official. And there was no indication that the White House was aware of the findings before it nominated Mr. Kerik to take over the Department of Homeland Security on Dec. 3, a nomination that has now been withdrawn.
If neither Mr. Giuliani nor the White House learned of Mr. Kerik's friendship with Mr. DiTommaso, or of the city investigation that at least briefly explored those ties, their lack of knowledge would raise questions about the background check that preceded Mr. Kerik's nomination for the Homeland Security post.
The White House said yesterday that its check into Mr. Kerik's past had actually been more extensive than officials had indicated earlier. Scott McClellan, the White House press secretary, said that the review had gone on for weeks before Mr. Bush nominated Mr. Kerik. On Sunday, a senior administration official said the review had taken only a week.
There were also indications that Mr. Kerik may have been under consideration for the job of homeland security secretary as early as the summer. A former city official said Mr. Kerik went to Washington twice in August to meet with White House officials about his views on domestic security. One of the officials was Frances Townsend, who is President Bush's domestic security adviser and a longtime friend of Mr. Giuliani's.
At the time of the city's inquiry, Interstate Materials, a related company, was being reviewed in connection with its application for a city license to open a debris transfer station. Lawrence Ray, the security director, had just been charged with stock fraud unrelated to the company. Asked why he had hired him in 1998, the owner, Mr. DiTommaso, said he did so in part because Mr. Kerik had vouched for him. Mr. DiTommaso also detailed his social relationship with Mr. Kerik, then the city's correction commissioner, and mentioned that he had employed Donald Kerik, the commissioner's brother. Mr. Giuliani said, "I didn't get to consider it then, and I did not know much about it at all until this confirmation process started for homeland security."
The former mayor said he did not believe any of the revelations he had heard would have changed his mind on Mr. Kerik's appointment.
Two senior Giuliani administration officials who were involved in the deliberations over the selection of the police commissioner in 2000 said in interviews on Monday that they, too, had not known about the information involving Mr. Kerik and Interstate. But they added that the Department of Investigation often shared such findings only with the mayor and the city's top lawyer.
"The question is, what did the mayor know?" the former city official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he now works in the private sector. "It should have been reported to him by the Department of Investigation. The mayor should have been told about it. And he should have considered it."
For now, then, it appears that the questions raised several years ago about Mr. Kerik and his relations with Interstate officials surfaced only after he had been nominated for the cabinet post and just a few days before he announced that he was withdrawing his nomination.
Mr. Kerik withdrew his name last Friday in a telephone call to President Bush after, he said, he realized that he had not paid taxes on behalf of his nanny and housekeeper and that she appeared to be in the United States illegally. The identity and whereabouts of the nanny have not been released, although Mr. Kerik has said that she has left the United States.
Mr. Kerik said yesterday that he did not believe Mr. DiTommaso had any ties to organized crime.
"I know there's been a lot written about him," Mr. Kerik said of Mr. DiTommaso in an interview yesterday with NY1 cable television news. "I personally know him to be a good man." Mr. DiTommaso has never been criminally charged and has denied any link to organized crime.
Earlier this year, the New Jersey Casino Control Commission granted Interstate Industrial a license to do work on Atlantic City casinos after considering the accusations of mob connections. But the decision has been appealed by the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement.
New York City, on the other hand, recommended denying Interstate Materials a license to operate the transfer station in Staten Island earlier this year, citing its dealings with organized crime figures and concluding that its officials "lack the character, honesty and integrity required."
The company's application for a license has been pending since 1996 and became a particular topic of interest in June 2000, just weeks after the best man at Mr. Kerik's wedding, Mr. Ray, was indicted on stock fraud charges unrelated to the company.
During two days of testimony, city officials asked Mr. DiTommaso how he had come to hire Mr. Ray as a $100,000-a-year security director. Mr. DiTommaso told the city investigators that Mr. Ray, with whom he said he had had a previous unsatisfactory business relationship, had told him that he knew top New York law enforcement officials, including Mr. Kerik, and Mr. DiTommaso thought he might help with their licensing problems.
He told investigators that he then spoke to Mr. Kerik, who told him Mr. Ray was a "top-shelf guy," according to his deposition. "I just remember him telling me, Larry Ray, 100 percent."
Mr. DiTommaso told investigators that Mr. Kerik had invited him to his Christmas Party in 1998 and that he would stop by occasionally when he was in New York to visit the commissioner.
"I liked Bernie," he told the city investigators. "I thought he was a pretty interesting guy. Still do."
Mr. DiTommaso also told investigators that he had hired a security company run by a former police colleague of Mr. Kerik's and that he employed Donald Kerik, although he did not specifically identify him as Bernard Kerik's brother.
It is not clear that city investigators ever learned that Mr. Ray, the best man at Mr. Kerik's 1998 wedding, contends he helped pay $7,000 for the affair or that Mr. Kerik, according to a city official, vouched for Mr. Ray to the city agency that was considering Interstate Materials's license application.
Mr. Giuliani said he had not heard until recent days that anyone had paid for Mr. Kerik's wedding reception or that the gift had apparently not been disclosed, as required, under New York City financial disclosure rules.
The Department of Investigation advises the mayor on the integrity of candidates for senior positions. But Mr. Giuliani said information about senior administration officials would be passed on to him only if there was a determination that the city employee had done something wrong.
With respect to Mr. Kerik and Interstate, that was not the case, Mr. Giuliani said.
"DiTommaso was not convicted of anything," Mr. Giuliani said.
The former mayor said that he still believed that the only legitimate reason that Mr. Kerik had to back out of the homeland security nomination was that he had employed a housekeeper who was apparently an illegal immigrant.
"There is no question that Bernie has had a colorful and complex life, and when you pull out parts of that, you can make things look a lot of different ways," Mr. Giuliani said of Mr. Kerik, a man who climbed from a beat officer to the top of the New York City Police Department.
"I have the advantage of knowing him under very, very stressful and difficult circumstances," he said, "so I know this is a man of great courage, great dedication, tremendous focus and sometimes not the greatest attention to detail."
Elisabeth Bumiller, Christopher Drew and Kevin Flynn contributed reporting for this article.
Missteps Cited in Kerik Vetting by White House
By ELISABETH BUMILLER, The New York Times
This article was reported by Elisabeth Bumiller, Eric Lipton and David Johnston and written by Ms. Bumiller.
WASHINGTON (Dec. 14) - Despite hours of confrontational interviews by the White House counsel, Alberto R. Gonzales, the Bush administration failed to get a full picture of the legal and ethical problems of Bernard B. Kerik, its nominee for homeland security secretary, a government official said on Tuesday.
In addition, the White House did not consult with the one person in the West Wing who knew the most about Mr. Kerik's background, Frances Townsend, because Ms. Townsend, President Bush's adviser on homeland security and a former federal prosecutor in New York, was under consideration for the position herself, said the official, who would speak only on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.
Those problems, law enforcement officials and Republicans said, were just two of the factors that led to the collapse of the Kerik nomination and surprised a White House focused on changing more than half the cabinet.
The story of Mr. Kerik's nomination is one of how a normally careful White House faltered because of Mr. Bush's personal enthusiasm for Mr. Kerik, a desire by the administration to quickly fill a critical national security job and an apparent lack of candor from Mr. Kerik himself.
A Republican close to the White House who has participated in background reviews of presidential nominees said the fault lay both with Mr. Kerik and with "whoever's job it was to check him out."
A major problem, law enforcement officials said, was that the White House did not have the benefit of any F.B.I. investigation into Mr. Kerik's past. Mr. Kerik, as New York City's police commissioner on Sept. 11, 2001, had been offered a high security clearance by federal officials so he could receive classified intelligence about the city's security, a law enforcement official said. But he failed to return a questionnaire needed for the F.B.I. to conduct a background check, and he never received that clearance, the law enforcement official said.
Swirl of Issues
1. Had a nanny who may have been in the country illegally and whose taxes had not been paid
2. Made millions in sale of stock from stun-gun manufacturer that does business with Homeland Security
1. Reportedly had extramarital affairs with Judith Regan, publisher of his memoir, and a city corrections officer
2. Was told to pay a conflict-of-interest fine in 2002 for having three police officers do research for his book
3. Reportedly accepted gifts from associates at a construction company authorities suspect has ties to organized crime
4. Reportedly had an arrest warrant out against him for failing to pay fees on a New Jersey condominium he owned
Sources: AP, The New York Times
Mr. Kerik said on Tuesday night through his spokesman, Christopher Rising, that he could not remember receiving the questionnaire. Mr. Kerik still received classified information from the F.B.I. and the C.I.A. regarding security issues in New York, the law enforcement official said, although the police commissioner was not given the most sensitive intelligence about the sources of the data. He served as police commissioner through the end of 2001.
Mr. Kerik also failed to complete a required federal financial disclosure form in May 2003, when he left the country to spend three and a half months in Iraq trying to train Iraqi police officers, a law enforcement official said. The disclosure form, law enforcement officials said, might have turned up some of the financial problems that surfaced this month in connection with a condominium he owned in New Jersey.
In addition, law enforcement officials said, Mr. Bush announced Mr. Kerik's nomination before the F.B.I. had begun the full field investigation required of all cabinet nominees. The officials said such an investigation would have readily uncovered the problems that doomed Mr. Kerik's nomination. The investigation was not done, administration officials said, because the Bush White House has generally not conducted such checks, which take numerous agents many weeks to complete, until after the president announces a nominee. A former White House official who has conducted background checks said that the Bush White House got into the habit during the abbreviated transition in 2000, when there was little time for investigating nominees.
The Clinton administration also waited on F.B.I. background checks, which caused a number of embarrassments. But the administrations of Ronald Reagan and the President Bush's father, for the most part, waited until an F.B.I. investigation was complete before the president announced a cabinet nominee.
White House officials said the counsel's office had conducted a less-comprehensive investigation of Mr. Kerik over several weeks in November, before the president announced his nomination, and that the White House was well aware that he had problems in his past, including a warrant for his arrest in connection with delinquent condominium fees.
Mr. Kerik was nominated by Mr. Bush on Dec. 3 but withdrew a week later, citing problems with a nanny who may have been in the country illegally and whose taxes he had not paid. Since then, Mr. Kerik has had to answer questions about his connections to a New Jersey company suspected of having ties to organized crime and his use of an apartment, donated as a resting spot for police officers at ground zero, where he conducted an affair with his book publisher, according to someone who discussed the relationship with him..
It is unclear exactly what the White House knew of Mr. Kerik's past. But aides there concluded that Mr. Kerik would be regarded as a "colorful" figure whose strong performance after the Sept. 11 attacks would propel him into office, one official said.
Mr. Gonzales, who is himself in the middle of a background review as Mr. Bush's nominee for attorney general, spent hours grilling Mr. Kerik, the official said. As with other nominees, the sessions were aggressive and designed to make Mr. Kerik uncomfortable enough to reveal possible embarrassing events in his record. Even so, he apparently withheld some pertinent facts. Mr. Gonzales declined to comment.
Throughout the process, the Republican close to the administration said, everyone at the White House knew that Mr. Bush liked Mr. Kerik, placing him in the special category of "this guy's our guy." Mr. Bush admired Mr. Kerik for his service as New York City's police commissioner on Sept. 11, 2001, for his willingness to try to train the police force in Iraq and for campaigning tirelessly for the president's re-election.
As for problems in his past that might have derailed his nomination, Republicans noted that former Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani was enthusiastically vouching for Mr. Kerik. And no one could imagine that the life of a former New York police chief was not already an open book.
Mr. Bush, who first met Mr. Kerik when the president went to the still-smoking ruins of the World Trade Center on Sept. 14, 2001, lavished praise on Mr. Kerik when the two stood side by side on the White House South Lawn in October 2003. The president had just met in the Oval Office with Mr. Kerik upon his return from Iraq.
Others criticized Mr. Kerik for seeming to focus more on seeking publicity than on expanding training programs for new Iraqi police officers. "He was terrific about inspiring people and creating a goal, but he was often not very good about following up and getting it done," one former American official who spent time in Baghdad said this month.
But Mr. Bush did not forget Mr. Kerik's time under fire, or his reflected glow from New York's response to the attacks on the city. By the fall of 2004, Mr. Kerik had become one of the symbols of the Bush campaign's fight against terrorism and traveled the nation spreading the message.
Christopher Drew contributed reporting from New York for this article.
More on Bernard Kerik's past:
Bernard Kerik Withdraws His Bush Cabinet Nomination Due to Improprieties...Many of Them
Misuse of Office: COIB v. Birdie Blake-Reid, NYC BOE Office of Parent Engagement; Bernard Kerik is fined