Even as Bloomberg was making these public promises, his top lawyer, corporation counsel Michael Cardozo, was calling Morgenthau personally and telling him that "the mayor was taken aback" that the district attorney had told reporters he was investigating the fire. Cardozo's call, according to two sources familiar with it, came within hours of Morgenthau making his announcement. "Tell the mayor that I'm taken aback that he's taken aback," said the legendary D.A., who then had to face what sources called many "contentious" dealings with attorneys in Cardozo's office. (One of the sources recalled Cardozo using a synonym for "taken aback.") Firefighters scheduled to appear at Morgenthau's office for questioning at 10 one morning were summoned to Cardozo's office at 8 for a briefing, but refused to show.

Asked about this exchange, as well as the attempts by other attorneys representing the city to get Morgenthau's office to remove language from his report criticizing Scoppetta, Cardozo's spokeswoman said, "We will not comment on what specifically may have been discussed in conversations between the city and the District Attorney's office." Loeser also refused to discuss the conversations, "other than to say that we defended the city's actions."

Bloomberg faced—at that moment, and for the next year and a half—a possible career-killing indictment. Morgenthau was openly considering an unprecedented indictment of the city for criminally negligent homicide. The exchanges with Morgenthau's office got so difficult that Bloomberg wound up hiring a respected criminal attorney, Gary Naftalis, to represent the city, and Cardozo's office paid Naftalis's firm $4.5 million in a single year. Cardozo is in the process even now of extending the contract and raising the price to $6 million, even though Morgenthau announced last December that he would not indict the city. Cardozo's office says that Naftalis is advising the city in its fight against the Beddia and Graffagnino families and in any other civil litigation.

While underlings were punished, Bloomberg deflected criticism of his man, Fire Commissioner Nick Scoppetta.
AP Photo/Edouard H.R. Gluck
While underlings were punished, Bloomberg deflected criticism of his man, Fire Commissioner Nick Scoppetta.

Details

With special reporting by Tom Feeney Jr.

Research assistance: Johanna Barr, Georgia Bobley, Lucy Jordan, and Sudip P. Mukherjee

When Morgenthau decided not to charge the Bloomberg administration, he made it clear that it wasn't for lack of evidence. He likened any attempt to charge the city to "tilting at windmills," citing its "sovereign immunity" as an insuperable legal obstacle.

Fortunately for Bloomberg, the trials of Galt and the three employees indicted for the deaths of the firefighters will not start until after the election, when defense attorneys plan to point the finger at the city in every way. Stu Loeser and Dan Doctoroff are refusing even now to answer any questions about the hiring of Galt, using Morgenthau's continuing investigation as their excuse. Loeser won't even say what the DOI warned city officials—including the mayor himself—about Galt, much less whether Bloomberg believes Doctoroff should have heeded the DOI and objected to its retention.

Cas Holloway, the top Bloomberg adviser on the Deutsche job and one of his current appointees to the LMDC board, appeared at a City Council hearing weeks after Morgenthau closed the fire case, and joined Bovis in refusing to answer questions about it. "We're not prepared to speak to every finding" in Morgenthau's report, Holloway said, refusing, in fact, to address any of them. "What we really want to talk about is what is happening at the site now." Morgenthau told the Voice that his office "certainly didn't tell anyone" not to answer public questions about the Deutsche debacle. Gerson, the Council member who chaired the hearing, called the city and Bovis's refusals "stonewalling."

The caged lion inside Bloomberg's administration, the DOI's Gill Hearn, wasn't asked by City Hall to look at Doctoroff's embrace of Bovis and Galt, but at the line staff at fire and buildings. She couldn't resist pointing out in her press release five weeks ago that the city's "inspectional forces" were "no match for the contractors' cavalier disregard for public safety," noting in the final paragraph of the 35-page report that Galt "should never have had this project in the first place."

No one in the New York press printed that conclusion. Bloomberg's onetime closest aide, who now runs his company, approved a contractor under indictment for killing two firefighters; Bloomberg's own top investigator says categorically that the contract should never have been awarded; and not one news outlet in New York thinks it's a story. Similarly, although every city paper published penetrating stories in the aftermath of the fire, not one quoted the DOI's more recent searing language about Scoppetta's executive team or cited the issues that the DOI implicitly raised about the DOB's top management. It's as if a curtain has been drawn on the mayoral election, and the only show that will go on is the one Mike buys on the air.

wbarrett@villagevoice.com

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