By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
By Roy Edroso
By Jon Campbell
By Albert Samaha
By Zachary D. Roberts
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."
When Assistant Inspector General Mary Koz-low tried to track down exactly where Carrique worked, she was sent to the custodian's office on the fourth floor of Borough Hall. The custodian told Kozlow that Carrique was involved in "a lot of stuff" but she wasn't sure exactly what. Koz-low was then directed to the basement of a building across the street where Carrique had another office. That building's custodian said that a couple of times a month he saw Carrique park his car by the building, place a police bubble light on the dashboard and then enter the basement. "He stays for a few minutes," the custodian told Kozlow, "and then he's gone."
Part of the time, investigators determined, Carrique was working at a real estate office called "Help U Sell Realty" on Hylan Boulevard, where he placed more than 150 calls from the cell phone. Carrique is a licensed real estate salesperson, state records show, but he never told his agency about it despite what DOI said was a major potential for conflict of interest, since DCAS handles all of the city's real estate.
Carrique never appeared for his own hearing, yet even with the overwhelming evidence, the city's hearing officer said she wasn't convinced and denied the agency's request to dismiss him. Commissioner Hirst, using her own powers, fired him anyway, a move Carrique later sought to appeal. On October 9, Carrique pleaded guilty to two counts of harassment in connection with the Toys "R" Us incident. He received a conditional discharge, promising to stay out of trouble.
Carrique didn't return any calls for this story, but he told the New York Post's Brad Hamilton in March that he was "a dedicated, conscientious employee" who "loved working for the people."
Diamond, now semi-retired in Florida, insists the episodes testified to by Castellenata never occurred and that he had nothing to do with the hiring. Carrique had called him personally on several occasions, he acknowledged, but he couldn't recall the topics. As for the cell phone, he said: "The cell phone? Oh, for Christ's sake, everyone had a cell phone. He was the Staten Island liaison. I didn't give a damn."
Those who know Carrique from Staten Island politics describe him as a doggedly loyal backer of the Molinari family who started out in the City Council campaigns of Susan Molinari, Guy's daughter. He attended rallies, dressed as Captain America. Later he worked for Guy Molinari's borough president campaign, part of a team that included another Molinari loyalist who later became a top aide in the Giuliani administration, Vincent La Padula. The group called themselves "Guy's Gang" and had jackets with the name inscribed on the back. Carrique was described as well-meaning, if not very bright. "He was one of those lost souls who sometimes attach themselves to campaigns," said one who knew him then. "He loved to be the loudest cheerleader at Molinari rallies," said another person who counts him as a friend.
Carrique entered his guilty plea on October 9. A few days earlier, he showed up at the island's annual Columbus Day parade, aboard current borough president James Molinaro's float, as Mayor Bloomberg marched alongside. Carrique had the lead role: He was dressed as Christopher Columbus.