By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
We have since learned that Ed Kuriansky, the city's investigations commissioner, warned Giuliani, during the selection process, about Kerik's disturbing connections to a mob-tied contractor who employed Kerik's brother and best man. Giuliani said as much during his artfully forgetful testimony before the state grand jury that indicted Kerik on charges of accepting gifts from the contractor, who was then seeking city work. Kuriansky had known Giuliani since their days together as young prosecutors in the 1970s, and he went to his death early this year with whatever he told Giuliani, rejecting reporters and investigators even as he battled cancer. He was never questioned by the DA's office, either in front of a grand jury or in an interview at home, according to a source close to Kuriansky, who says he was "too sick" to be put through any difficult interrogation.
Kuriansky's appointment diaries, first unearthed by WNBC TV's Jonathan Dienst, showed that in the days preceding Kerik's appointment, the commissioner met repeatedly with Giuliani and Denny Young, Giuliani's counsel, who moved with him to Giuliani Partners. A Voice reading of the diaries and interviews with the people identified in them leaves little doubt that Kuriansky briefed City Hall about Kerik's troubling relationships. The logs refer to three Kuriansky meetings with Giuliani, Young, or Young's deputy regarding Kerik's background investigation. The diaries also refer several times to Larry Ray, the best man at Kerik's 1998 wedding, who had been indicted in a stock case involving a Gambino crime-family figure just weeks earlier. Ray was placed on the payroll of the mob-connected contractor on Kerik's recommendation, and the company and Kerik appear in some of the same meeting entries as Ray's name.
What is perhaps most surprising about the logs is that Kuriansky also participated on the screening panel of top Giuliani aides that interviewed Kerik and Dunne and made a recommendation to the mayora role inconsistent with the independence that most mayors, including Mike Bloomberg, expect of their investigation commissioners. One participant in these high-level internal discussions says Kuriansky never mentioned Kerik's ties to the company or Ray, which suggests that even as Giuliani and Young were briefed, the mayor did not want the larger group of deputy mayors told about Kerik's dark side.
Giuliani testified that, in the end, Kuriansky didn't regard whatever he had on Kerik as disqualifying information. But on the other hand, Kuriansky also allowed Kerik to avoid filling out a detailed questionnaire required of major appointees. Giuliani's first meeting with Kuriansky about the background probe preceded that decision.
As clear as it is that Giuliani was on notice about the questions surrounding Kerik when he made him police commissioner, he had even better reasons not to recommend him for the homeland-security post four years later. Giuliani says now: "I think I should have done a better job of investigating him, vetting him, however you want to describe that. It's my responsibility, and I've learned from it. I'll make sure that I do a much better job of checking into people in the future." All Giuliani had to do by December 2004, however, was read the newspapers about his own partner to see that Kerik was carrying too much baggage for a cabinet-level job.
The city's Conflict of Interests Board, consisting mostly of Giuliani appointees, had already fined Kerik $2,500 for using three police detectives to do research for his lucrative autobiography. One of Kerik's top aides at the correction department was indicted in 2003 for running political campaigns out of his office at Rikers Island and for using department workers to renovate his home. Kerik was also accused of covering up an assault charge against his chief of staff, John Picciano, who allegedly attacked a female correction officer he was having an affair with and threatened her with a gun. A 2003 Daily News story quoted a top correction official who detailed how Kerik had personally tried to keep the incident quiet. (Picciano, who had also taken 99 exemptions on his tax returns but avoided prosecution when many other correction department employees were penalized for similar conduct, was working at Giuliani Partners when the stories about him ran.)
A federal judge ordered Kerik in 2004 to help repay $142,733 that was embezzled from a correction-department charity that Kerik chaired. Fred Patrick, the treasurer of the foundation, which received a million dollars in department revenue diverted by Kerik, pleaded guilty to looting it to cover the cost of the kinky collect-call phone conversations he was having with jail inmates. Kerik was required to jointly repay the money because he appointed Patrick to the post and was supposed to oversee the finances of the nonprofit. William Fraser, who was Kerik's top deputy at the correction department and was elevated at Kerik's behest, resigned in the early years of the Bloomberg administration when it was revealed that department workers had renovated the pool at his home. Kerik was also a defendant in a lawsuit accusing him of retaliating against a correction official who disciplined a female prison guard with whom Kerik was having an affair, and was scheduled to testify in a deposition around the time of his nomination.