Bloomy's Hypocritical Oath

Four gripes with Michael Bloomberg's first-term performance

His convention: If Freddy Ferrer had even a small piece of Bloomberg's cash, he'd use a chunk of it to air a loop of the mayor praising President Bush at last year's GOP convention at Madison Square Garden. Anti-Bush sentiment has grown so strong in the city that, even for those who don't believe the mayor's pro–White House stance affects local governance, it carries a stigma that can only hurt him. But the other footage that Bloomberg doesn't want to see on the air is of several hundred peaceful, sidewalk-marching protesters being roped together like cattle by police. More than 90 percent of the more than 1,800 arrests during the convention resulted in dismissals or not-guilty verdicts.

Abetted by city attorneys, police kept more than 500 people under arrest well beyond the 24-hour arraignment period, a maneuver that defense lawyers charged was designed to let Bush get out of town without further confrontation. In a settlement, the Bloomberg administration agreed to pay more than $230,000 in legal fees and fines to those who were held.

Favorite son: Bloomberg and ex-aide Vincent LaPadula
photo: Cary Conover
Favorite son: Bloomberg and ex-aide Vincent LaPadula

His friends: The mayor is unlikely to catch any flak on this one outside of these pages, but this incident reveals something twisted and wrong in the man: One year after the Voice's exposé of corruption by Giuliani aide Russell Harding, son of Liberal Party boss Ray Harding, Bloomberg decided to publicly fire two veteran employees who had worked under Harding at the city's Housing Development Corporation. While Harding had junketed around the globe, the two men had kept the agency functioning. But on May 6, 2003, the mayor dispatched a top aide to oust director Charles Brass and counsel David Boccio from their offices. That afternoon, Bloomberg issued a press release condemning them for "significant lapses in judgment" and failing "to report evidence of wrongdoing." It was a humiliating and potentially career-breaking moment for both men.

Bloomberg's disgrace was the greater, however, even if only a handful of people perceived it. At the same time he was publicly shaming the two aides, the mayor remained silent about his own chief adviser, Vincent LaPadula, who had not only failed to intervene in Harding's escapades but had even participated in them. LaPadula had taken a $4,200 junket with Harding and got his pal to install his brother in a $70,000-a-year, semi-show job at the agency. When LaPadula turned 30, Harding threw a $1,000 party at the Four Seasons for his buddy—and charged it to taxpayers.

But Bloomberg never had a harsh public word about LaPadula and kept him on his payroll. The young Staten Islander, a former Giuliani aide, was one of Bloomberg's first campaign hires. He introduced the billionaire to Republican officials around the city and later served as the mayor's liaison with GOP leaders around the state. Mike Bloomberg, self-declared non-politician, wasn't about to upset those relationships. A few months after Bloomberg's public purge, LaPadula quietly left City Hall for a well-paid position in municipal finance. Friends say he remains an informal adviser to the mayor, whose pledge to hire only the best and brightest apparently retains some necessary loopholes.

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