News & Politics

Good career move: Driving Miss Libby

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By Wayne Barrett and Tom Robbins

Having a state worker drive his ailing wife around may
turn out to be a career-killer for comptroller Alan Hevesi.

But shepherding Governor George Pataki’s wife to her
daily appointments has been a career enhancement of the
first order for state police officers.

That job assignment has worked out splendidly for New
York State Police Major Gary Berwick who has been part of
Governor Pataki’s hush-hush security detail since the
former state senator from Peekskill took office in 1995.
Berwick, a state trooper since 1982, began rising
through the ranks after he began protecting first lady
Libby Pataki. State records show he worked his way up from
$55,000 a year as an investigator in 2000, to $67,500 as a
senior investigator in 2004.

Last year Berwick was promoted again, this time to the
rank of Major, in charge of the state police’s “executive
service detail” – overseeing all of the Pataki family’s
security. His salary shot up to $120,490, making him one of
the highest earners among his rank in the department.
“Berwick drove [Libby Pataki] for years and was then
promoted,” said a state police source with knowledge of the
detail.

Berwick refused to discuss his job. “I absolutely
can’t comment on that,” he told the Voice when reached at
his home in New Windsor. “We have a personnel department
that handles matters like that. I suggest you call them.”

But spokesmen at the state police’s public affairs
unit also refused to discuss Berwick’s job, or anything
else concerning the governor’s security unit. “He is a
major in charge of the executive services detail,” said
spokesman Sergeant Kern Swoboda. “They are exclusively
responsible for protecting the governor. We can’t discuss
the security of the family.”

As overseer of the Pataki protection detail, Berwick
replaced another state police star, Colonel Dan Wiese, who
also climbed swiftly through the ranks after his friend and
neighbor, Pataki, became governor.

As the Voice reported in January, 2004, (“A Dirty Cop
at the Top
” ) Wiese was such a loyal supporter of his boss
that he took the Fifth Amendment rather than testify before
a federal grand jury in 1998 that was probing a scandal in
which Pataki campaign contributions were solicited in
exchange for promises of winning early parole for felons.
Normally, for a law enforcement officer to invoke his
constitutional right not to testify because he could be
incriminated by his own testimony is grounds for firing.
But Wiese sailed on with the governor, his salary climbing
from $89,528 in 1998 – the year he took the fifth – to
$120,238 when he retired in 2003. Wiese then began
collecting a $73,000 annual pension, with a waiver to
continue collecting it even as he earned $170,000 a year
job as the inspector general at the patronage-filled New
York state Power Authority.

This week the Voice reported that another Pataki aide,
ex-NYPD cop Edward Keegan, drove Libby Pataki and her
mother, while working as a special assistant to the
commissioner of the state’s Office of General Services, a
catch-all agency that handles building management and
procurement. But records show that the Pataki team
initially sought to place Keegan with the state police as
well, at a salary of $64,415 when the administration began
in January, 1995. Some difficulties must have developed
about having a civilian on the state police payroll driving
a member of the governor’s family. So, two months later, in
late February, 1995, Keegan was switched over to the
general services office, with the amorphous “special
assistant” title.

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