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Many of Harding's chauffeured trips were purely personal in nature, Garcia said. "Shopping, errands, picking up his friends at the airport. To me it wasn't business." In October 2000, on weekend overtime, Garcia twice took Harding and a group of friendssome of whom he had first picked up at the airportto the Mets-Yankees World Series games. Garcia was ordered to wait outside until the games were over and then take the group to dinner afterwards, finishing work in the wee hours of the morning. "They were old friends, school or childhood pals as near as I could tell," said Garcia, who was fired in January 2001 without explanation after he told Harding that his new baby would make it impossible for him to be available as much on weekends.
Garcia's description of the baseball outings jibes with Harding's excited online chat that month with a man in Indianapolis with whom he had struck up a cyber-friendship.
"Did I tell you I'm going to the game tomorrow?" typed Harding to his pal, Fred Sawyers, on October 10, 2000, the day before Game 2 of the Yankees-Seattle Mariners playoffs. "I got six tickets for me and some friends . . . not great seats but they are very hard to get . . . but i was able to get some through the office with some connections i have with the mayor..and the best part is i won't have to pay a cent for them[;] the city will pick up the whole bill," wrote Harding, adding a sideways cyber-smile, ":)".
Giuliani's office had access to many playoffs and series seats, it was reported at the time. The Parks Department had a block of seats, although City Hall kept hush-hush about who received them. Newsdayreported that Giuliani's political committee, Solutions America, was also able to buy series tickets at face value. Harding didn't say precisely where his playoff tickets came from, but he made clear the mayor's office, where his friend Lapadula was working, was key.
"Yup, I never have to pay for things like that . . . especially Yankee tickets . . . just one of the perks I get with my job . . . and knowing the Mayor doesn't hurt either," he added.
Sawyers, who relayed Harding's chats to the Voicein January, said he was visited in Indianapolis this week by DOI investigators.
Related Stories by Tom Robbins:
"The Lush Life of a Rudy Appointee: How a Politically Tied Aide Spent a Quarter of a Million Dollars on Food, Fun, and Travel"