By Albert Samaha
By Darwin BondGraham
By Keegan Hamilton
By Anna Merlan
By Anna Merlan
By Tessa Stuart
By Tessa Stuart
By Albert Samaha
Former city aide Daniel Carrique gave new meaning to the concept of being lost in the bureaucracy. Fired this spring from his $51,000-a-year post, Carrique pled guilty in October to harassing managers of a chain store, claiming to be an assistant to the mayor and threatening a city investigation of their selling practices.
That was strange enough. Stranger still was that while everyone in the city agency where he worked knew that Carrique was politically connected, no one knew what his duties were or where he was supposed to be, according to testimony about his job offered at a hearing last fall.
"As long as I was there . . . we never gave him any job duties or any instructions of what to do," testified John Castellenata, Carrique's putative supervisor and deputy commissioner at the Department of Citywide Administrative Services.
All that Castellenata and others at the agency knew was that Carrique was a protégé of Staten Island Borough President Guy Molinari, the Republican leader whose support for Rudy Giuliani in 1993 had helped put the former prosecutor into City Hall. And that under instructions from Commissioner William Diamond, a Manhattan Republican named by Giuliani to head the agency, Carrique was carried on the DCAS payroll as a "Community Coordinator," with his time sheets signed by Castellenata.
The odd arrangement lasted for most of nine years, until last fall when the agency's new commissioner, Martha Hirst, finally sought Carrique's firing. She did so after police arrested Carrique in October 2002 on a complaint of harassment by managers of a Toys "R" Us store on Staten Island where Carrique had tried to pass himself off to them as an aide to the mayor. At a hearing before a city administrative law judge on Hirst's termination request, Castellenata recalled two vivid encounters with his former boss concerning the mysterious city worker.
On one occasion, the deputy said that he was in Diamond's office while the commissioner was on the telephone talking to Molinari. "My commissioner was calling him 'sir' and discussing the fact that Dan Carrique was working for him out there," he testified. Castellenata heard Diamond say: " 'So is Dan OK? Is he working out for you? OK, that's good. All right. Thank you, sir.' And then he hung up."
Another time, Castellenata said, "the commissioner called me into his office and said, 'I want Dan Carrique to have a cell phone.' " Castellenata hedged. "Commissioner, we don't know what he does," he said he told Diamond. "He's working for the Staten Island borough president. Why doesn't the Staten Island borough president give him a telephone?" The agency was trying to limit the number of cell phones, he said. With that, the deputy recounted, Diamond "slammed his hand down on the desk and said, 'Give him a damn phone.' "
Records of that cell phone were entered into evidence at the hearing and provide the only solid clues about Carrique's activities. They show that, while on the city payroll, Carrique managed to pop up, Zelig-like, around the country.
In December 2000, in the midst of the uproar over the disputed presidential vote in Florida, the records show Carrique was all over the state as Republicans held protests. He made more than three dozen calls from Tallahassee, Jacksonville, and Jefferson. He also appeared in several newspaper articles which described him holding a sign praising George W. Bush. "Staten Island loves Bush," Carrique told The Palm Beach Post. To get to Florida, Carrique told the paper, he "just up and drove. I arrived two days ago and I am strictly a volunteer."
He took another tour of the South in the spring of 2001, logging more than 50 calls on a 10-day jaunt through Virginia, the Carolinas, and Georgia. In July, he took the phone with him to San Francisco. In August, he went to Texas and Oklahoma, where he managed to log 53 cell phone calls over a week to mostly unlisted numbers back home. A few weeks later, in early September 2001, he was back again in the Southwest, visiting Dallas, Wichita Falls, and Lawton, Oklahoma.
In the midst of last year's deadly sniper attacks in suburban Washington, D.C., Carrique showed up with a contingent of Guardian Angels, wearing the group's trademark red beret as he stood guard at a gas station where a recent shooting had occurred. Again he found his way into several newspaper accounts. "I feel like a sitting duck here," he told London's Sunday Mirror. "The sooner we can go home the better."
Frank Lee, the Angels' East Coast director, recalled that Carrique was there "for a few days." Carrique's job, he said "was working for Guy Molinari's office, getting him votes. I didn't really know what he was doing."
All told, the city's Department of Investigation estimated that at least 70 percent of Carrique's calls were personal and that he owed the city over $1,000.
Even inside Staten Island's Borough Hall, officials said they had no idea what Carrique was doing. Dan Masters, the general counsel for the Staten Island borough president, told DOI investigators that his office had "no idea what [Carrique] does, but he is not in any way involved with the Staten Island borough president's office."