Party Harding

Lush-Living Rudy Aide Threw $22K Bash for Board Chairman

"This is being investigated by DOI, and I have no comment," said LaSalle.

HDC board members questioned last week said most of their attention was focused on housing and bond deals, and that they received no details of Harding's expenditures, approving only a total annual operating budget for the agency.

Throughout Harding's tenure, one of those charged with overseeing his agency was his brother, Robert, another longtime Giuliani aide. As city budget director from 1998 until 2000, Robert Harding served as a member of HDC's board. In March 2000, he was promoted to the post of deputy mayor for economic development and finance, where he had direct supervisory responsibility for the HDC. But in one of the paradoxes of the evolving scandal, several friends of Robert Harding's said the two brothers have been estranged for years, and rarely speak. During Robert Harding's term on the HDC board, staffers said, he infrequently attended board meetings when Russell Harding was present.

Party men: Ex–city housing commissioner Richard Roberts was feted at a lavish going-away party at city expense courtesy of Russell Harding.
photo: Frances M. Roberts
Party men: Ex–city housing commissioner Richard Roberts was feted at a lavish going-away party at city expense courtesy of Russell Harding.

Robert Harding, now a lobbyist with the firm of Greenberg Traurig, did not return messages.

Last Wednesday, at their first official meeting since the revelations about Russell Harding's expenses, four of the board's seven members sat down in leather-covered Keilhauer ergonomic chairs and gathered around an immense, 40-foot-long gleaming wood conference table, just some of the expensive furnishings acquired under Harding's reign.

Charles Moerdler, a veteran real estate attorney appointed to the board by Governor Pataki, expressed repeated frustration at being kept in the dark about the ongoing probe.

"I have a responsibility and I intend to discharge it," said Moerdler, adding later that he was "unimpressed by any DOI investigation going back 50 years in terms of how you best fix the agency."

Behind the boardroom, separated by a well-equipped office pantry, was Harding's now empty office. It is a spacious, windowed room with a large bookcase and cabinet of bird's-eye maple framing a long desk upon which two remote-control devices sit. They were for automatically opening and closing the office doors, explained a staffer, clicking the remote as a wood door closed silently at the other end of the room.

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"

"More Lush Life of a Rudy Appointee"

"Bonuses, Bargains, and Strip Clubs at the Housing Development Corporation"

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