Shut Your Mouth

Big-Bucks Bloomy buys corporate silence in six sex and race cases

The problem with Mike Bloomberg's money isn't limited to the $175 million he'll soon have officially spent in two campaigns to tell us what he wants us to know about him. It's the untold millions he and his company have paid in secret settlements and other deals to make sure we never learn his whole story. The Voice has tracked a half-dozen ex-employees of Bloomberg's closely held communications company who have wound up in nasty disputes with him-—on allegations ranging from maternity discrimination to sexual harassment to racial comments—and who will not discuss his conduct, often because of confidentiality agreements they have signed. These cases, which go beyond typical corporate fodder, raise questions about a side of him unseen since he became mayor. While some of these complaints have been resolved during his mayoralty, no new ones like them have emerged involving public employees. However, the timing and substance of the cases suggest that Bloomberg might never have become mayor had all the facts surfaced during the 2001 election. The silencing of these former staffers merits scrutiny before this election. Here's the list:

Sekiko Garrison: While her case of gender discrimination got a great deal of attention in 2001, culminating in a shrill television commercial aired by Democrat Mark Green, Bloomberg brushed past it by issuing a public denial of its core charge. One of several women who alleged in court documents that they'd "lost lucrative portions of their sales territory, were denied business opportunities and received inferior bonuses" once they got married or had children, Garrison claimed that Bloomberg told her twice to "kill it" when she informed him she was pregnant. He also added, according to Garrison: "Great! Number 16," a reference to the number of company women on maternity leave.

Garrison's attorney, Neal Brickman, would not even acknowledge that the case was settled, only that it was "resolved" in the early fall of 2000 and that he was not permitted to discuss it. He said Garrison, who now lives in Seattle, wouldn't discuss it either. Asked if he thought the case might have ended because Bloomberg was simultaneously announcing his interest in a possible 2001 mayoral race, Brickman told the Voice: "It certainly may have been, though it was never mentioned. This case went from one that was remarkably hotly contested to not hotly contested overnight." News reports in 2001 indicated that Bloomberg personally settled the case for a "substantial" sum pegged at "six figures."

Bloomberg was deposed in the case but his testimony has never become fully public due to the settlement. While his lawyers disputed the comments Garrison attributed to him, she retained a tape of a message he left for her both apologizing for the remarks and denying he made them. Had the case gone to trial, the bizarre recording would've been played in court. Bloomberg conceded during his deposition that he had used the expression "I'd do her" about Garrison, though he insisted that what he meant by the expression was that he would have a personal relationship with her. He reportedly tried to walk out of the deposition when asked if the Debbie who "did" Dallas in the infamous porn movie had a "personal relationship" with the entire city.

Mary Ann Olszewski: Her rape charge against a top Bloomberg L.P. executive was even more explosive than the Garrison allegations, and it too surfaced in part during the 2001 campaign. As the Voice revealed then, Bloomberg testified in the case that he would not believe the allegation was "genuine" unless there was "an unimpeachable third-party witness," adding that "there are times when three people are together." While Olszewski's attorney David Mair threw me out of his office in 2001 when I asked him if there was a settlement in the case, and Olszewski refused to comment, every indication is that Bloomberg "resolved" this time-bomb case as well.

His 272-page, 1998 deposition—in which he also said "my own morals would require" corroboration in rape cases generally and "I don't have an opinion" about whether false rape claims "are common"—would have never become public had not the Voice obtained it from a confidential source. Asked if he'd said he would like to "do that piece of meat" or that he'd "do her in a second," he only partially corrected the quotation: "I don't recall ever using the term 'meat' at all," he testified.

What has become clear since 2001 is that Olszewski, who was described by her attorney as unable to pay $14,769 in court costs, leased a new blue convertible BMW in Florida on February 19, 2001, the day before the case was finally dismissed in Manhattan federal court. She also moved into a $5,000-a-month Miami luxury condo on February 26, and on March 1 incorporated her own hedge fund, which she operated out of the unit. A year later, she paid $750,000 to buy another apartment in the same building. She still has the BMW.

At the final hearing in the case in October 2000, Judge Robert Patterson raised the question of a settlement, saying he was "sure the parties have discussed it from time to time," though he said he had no "insight" into "why, at this stage, there would be any hope" of one. The judge expressed concern that "there be justice here and not be some technicality standing in the way of justice"—an apparent reference to the fact that he'd dismissed the case once already because Olszewski's prior lawyer had not filed response papers on time. Also speaking sorrowfully about "any possible injustice" to Olszewski, Patterson issued a December 12 ruling giving her 28 days to file papers vacating his dismissal. Incredibly, after trying for a year to overturn Patterson's default judgment, Olszewski's new attorney Mair never filed the motion, even when Patterson extended the deadline. Mair refused again recently to discuss why, presumably because it would have required him to answer questions about a settlement.

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