By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
Over the next two years, Wierson and other NYC-TV employees traveled around the world, to the Middle East and Europe, making their movie. For Wierson, the trips were profitable in other ways as well: In a May 31 farewell e-mail to station employees, he said that "over the past year or so," he'd "had the good fortune to develop some very important relationships in the Middle East, particularly in the Gulf Region." As a result, he said, individuals there had asked him to take on "a number of projects."
All of this, Wierson and his aides insisted to investigators, they did in their own spare time. If people thought they were missing from their day jobs, they said, it was only because they were often holed up in the network's downtown Brooklyn office, a maze of tiny studios on Tillary Street that used to house the old Board of Education's TV and radio station, before it was subsumed in Bloomberg's new NYC Media.
Wherever he spent his time, Wierson isn't talking about it. He didn't respond to repeated calls, e-mails, and messages relayed to him through friends and associates. In late June, he and his family moved out of their apartment in Brooklyn's DUMBO. According to a former co-worker, he's now out of the country, engaged in one of the high-powered jobs he scouted out during his travels.
Loyalists, however, offered a defense in his absence: If Wierson was working part-time on his own private projects, they said, he was also scoring dozens of awards for the edgy new shows that he helped create: Eat Out New York, Cool in Your Code, and Man Up!—a "lifestyle" and fashion show produced by the suave Scotland. Then there were the industry partnerships that Wierson negotiated, whereby both NBC and PBS agreed to carry some of the NYC-TV programs.
At a 2006 press conference for the NBC deal, Bloomberg showed up at the televised event, calling it "a landmark agreement." With Scotland and Wierson grinning behind him, the mayor also took the opportunity to knock the
old city TV programming that consisted of mainly City Council hearings and press conferences. His own TV team, said the mayor, had created "dynamic new content worthy of the greatest city in the world."
Wierson made sure that each of these successes was noticed. He kept a party planner and promoter on staff who earned $75,000 last year. The station celebrated every new award and show with a glitzy affair held at a downtown club, complete with red carpet and a photographer shooting portraits of Wierson and his crew against a wall of NYC-TV logos.
Wierson blitzed professional media organizations with nominations of his shows for prizes. The investment paid off. The station hauled in 33 awards from New York's local version of the Emmys. Wierson was so proud of this triumph that he decided to broadcast the annual award dinners on NYC-TV. In a brilliant example of log-rolling, that production won its own Emmy.
Not bad for a guy who had no background in television when he landed his job in 2002. A former banker, Wierson, 37, could also stand in for one of the many models he hired to decorate his shows. He is a tall man with a broad jaw, who wears his hair fashionably slicked back. He is married to Fabiana Mesquita Wierson, an attractive blonde from Brazil who hosted at least one NYC-TV show and who was a longtime employee of Bloomberg LP at the time her husband was named the station's general manager. That appointment came after Wierson had finished working on the mayor's 2001 campaign.
City officials insist that the mayor neither hired Wierson nor recommended him for his NYC-TV post. But the men were clearly friendly. At another of those glitzy parties, this one at Tribeca Cinemas in 2005, Bloomberg was captured on Wierson's cameras singing his aide's praises and joking with his wife, Fabiana. "Were you married when I first met you?" the mayor asks her. He was also comfortable enough to tell the crowd about her pregnancy. "His wife is, uh, with child, is the way to phrase it," said Bloomberg.
At the same party, the mayor also exchanged jests with another top NYC-TV executive at the time, a woolly-haired young man named Seth Unger, who is married to Allison Jaffin, the mayor's special assistant, who handles both private and public events for Bloomberg. "Seth finally got a haircut," the mayor joked. "Every time I saw him, I would say, 'My mother would say you need a haircut.' " Unger also worked on the mayor's 2001 campaign and was named to a top NYC-TV post in 2002 at a salary of $65,000. When he quit the agency in 2006, he was making $104,000.
Wierson also thrived. His starting salary was $75,000 a year. When he left in late May, he was pulling in exactly double that figure.
He clearly enjoyed having a staff at his disposal. One of the violations that DOI cited was Wierson's use of an office temporary employee for personal errands. Wierson dispatched the computer-savvy worker to the Soho Apple store to buy two MacBooks for his own use, along with software for his outside film production business. Wierson also had the worker come to his apartment, where he had him work on his home computer system and set up a wireless network for his family. There were five to eight of these home tech visits, each one lasting two to three hours, the temp told DOI. He said Wierson told him to simply list the hours on his time sheet.