In this week’s paper, the Voice examines Investigations Commissioner Rose Gill Hearn’s handling of the uncomfortably close relationship between her Inspector General for Correction, Michael Caruso, and disgraced former Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik.
Here now are three other intriguing nuggets of the story from the mixed-up files of Caruso’s six-year-old lawsuit against Hearn and the city for wrongful termination.
Keep in mind that questions about the Kerik-Caruso relationship were swirling around the agency for more than four years of Hearn’s long tenure as commissioner. Hearn kept Caruso on staff from 2002 all the way until she finally fired him in March, 2006, even vouching for him to Mayor Bloomberg and considering giving him a raise and a promotion.
Nugget 1: At one point, and this was well after the Kerik investigation was underway, Hearn even contacted John Mattingly, then the commissioner for the city’s foster care agency, about finding a job for Caruso there. Observers suggest this move was a conflict of interest because she had oversight power over Mattingly’s agency.
A DOI official who could not speak for attribution, argues there was no conflict. Caruso had expressed an interest in going to ACS, and the commissioner was merely following up on that request.
Nugget 2: Caruso alleges that after Kerik was nominated for the top job in Homeland Security in 2004, two of Hearn’s top aides approached him and asked him to put in a good word with Kerik for them.
The DOI official calls this a “wild assertion” and “completely far-fetched.”
Nugget 3: One of the reasons that Hearn’s aides say Caruso was fired was because of his presence at a key 1999 meeting between Kerik and Trade Waste Commissioner Ray Casey, in which Kerik lobbied Casey in favor of a contractor accused of organized crime ties. That meeting made up one element of the 2006 indictment of Kerik for accepting a $200,000 apartment renovation from the contractor.
The city’s papers make it appear as though DOI really only knew about the significance of the meeting in 2006 when the allegations against Kerik were in the grand jury.
Hearn’s predecessor, Edward Kuriansky, knew about the meeting in 2000, but the DOI official insists Hearn wasn’t apprised of this meeting when she came into office.
Notes by Hearn’s general counsel Marjorie Landa in the court file, show that Hearn certainly knew about the meeting in December, 2004, more than a year before she finally fired Caruso.
Landa took the notes in a Dec. 27, 2004 meeting between Caruso, Hearn, and Dan Brownell, another Hearn aide.
“Subsequent meeting with Casey and Kerik–meeting at Walker’s,” the notes read. “Caruso asked along because they [Kerik and Casey] didn’t get along.”
The notes also detail a range of other Kerik-Caruso contacts and include other instances in which Caruso is advising Kerik both before after he departed city government. For example, they say Caruso was the one who told Kerik to tell Kuriansky in March, 2000 about the meeting,
“The assertion that DOI knew all in December 2004 is belied by the facts and ironic given that this same investigation resulted in perjury charges and, two months ago, a conviction,” said DOI spokeswoman Diane Struzzi.
Meanwhile, the DOI official says, “The significance of the meeting is really only fully understood until just before Kerik’s indictment. From the beginning of 2002, we sat Caruso down and asked him beyond the book [Kerik’s memoir “The Lost Son”], where else did he socialize with Kerik. His answer was never did. DOI was never briefed by the prior administration. We acted on what we knew when we knew it. You’re not going to fire someone on conjecture alone. “
Lastly, this is DOI’s full statement in response to the Voice’s questions this week about Hearn’s handling of the Caruso matter:
“DOI takes seriously all matters relating to an employee’s performance and termination and does not act precipitously in such matters; and as the City’s chief integrity agency, DOI must necessarily be mindful of how its actions will be perceived by the public, particularly where those actions involve allegations and conduct relating to its employees. DOI is an agency that investigates and acts on facts, which is what we did in this matter now almost 7 years ago, and even then we were reconstructing events that happened six years prior to that. I cannot comment further given that there is pending litigation.”