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Two Legal Eagles Are Birds of a Feather

September 26, 1994

A city comptroller's audit of the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association's Health and Welfare Fund criticizes the PBA's hiring of its law firm - which the city finances to the tune of nearly $ 4 million annually. That money provides free legal representation for city cops in both job-related and personal matters - all at taxpayer expense.

The audit rapped the PBA for hiring the Long Island firm of Lysaght, Lysaght and Kramer without competitive bids. But it tells only part of the story, omitting how and why that firm came to be hired and obscuring the role of the PBA's controversial former attorney, Richard Hartman.

The comptroller's spokesman David Neustadt says the audit was requested on March 9, 1992, by PBA President Phil Caruso following an article in New York Newsday. Neustadt says this was first time anyone ever asked the comptroller to audit a welfare fund. The New York Newsday article, which ran the same day Caruso made his request, described the PBA's relationship with Hartman, which continued even after he was forced to resign from the bar for taking money from PBA escrow accounts to pay his gambling debts. The union then paid him a $ 2 million consultant fee and millions more in insurance commissions.

The comptroller's audit never mentions Hartman but questions the way his successor firm was hired. Though describing the welfare fund as "generally well run," it criticizes the PBA for hiring Lysaght, Lysaght and Kramer without competitive bidding, as a comptroller's directive mandates.

The audit quotes the fund's administrator as saying that at a PBA trustee meeting on Nov. 14, 1988, a month after Hartman's resignation, he and the fund's actuary were authorized to begin competitive bidding for a new law firm. When the two couldn't find one with "expertise" in police matters, they received verbal approval from Caruso to retain Lysaght. But the audit adds that no documentation was provided to support this account.

Now here's what actually happened, say those who know Hartman. Hartman had known Jim Lysaght since Lysaght was a Nassau County cop and Hartman that union's attorney. He'd also known Lysaght's father, a personal injury attorney. After Lysaght obtained his law degree and joined his dad's practice, Hartman began sending them personal injury cases.

Meanwhile, after Hartman was forced to resign from the bar, he became a $ 2 million PBA consultant, and three months later he became a licensed state insurance agent so he could broker the union's lucrative insurance policies. These arrangements were not scrutinized by the audit because, Neustadt says, "the money was paid to Hartman from the union, not the welfare fund."

Nor could the audit scrutinize Lysaght's long-rumored payment to Hartman to take over his practice, a source of continued speculation in law enforcement.

Printable versionKelly A-OK. If anyone is worried about ex-police commissioner Raymond Kelly's physical condition in light of his possible posting to Haiti to help restore democracy, his heart is just fine now, he says. Retiring earlier this year, Kelly had filed notice he might apply for a line-of-duty disability pension under the controversial heart bill after a preliminary investigation found a slight irregularity on a stress test. Since then, he says he's been re-examined; his heart's tip-top.

It's Official. Brooklyn South Assistant Chief Michael Markman will succeed Mike Julian as chief of personnel. A department bio says Markman, whose father was a cop, holds a master's degree in criminal justice and headed the Bias Unit and Office of Management and Planning (where Julian was his subordinate). Not in bio: that Markman is the highest-ranking member of the Shomrim Society, an organizaion of Jewish officers, and one of only two or three Shomrim members ever to achieve three-star status in the NYPD.

No Respect. They carry a badge and gun and make arrests like cops. But investigators for four of the city's DAs say they get neither the respect nor the pensions cops do. Their union president, Alfonse Lombardo, is pushing a bill to obtain equality. Although many investigators are retired cops - and already collect city pensions - the rest get no city pension unless they work until age 62. Cops, meanwhile, can retire after 20 years.

Stars. Joseph Leake was a two-star chief when he headed Manhattan Borough North. When a few months ago he was appointed housing police chief, he became a four-star chief. Now with the impending merger set for Saturday, he'll wear the three stars of an NYPD superchief. Question: Will he retain his four-star chief's salary?

Cheap Shot. That's what Police Commissioner William Bratton termed an article in The New York Times criticizing the size of the department's 23-member Public Information Office. The article appeared after Bratton's spokesman John Miller said the office had used half of the staff to prepare a statistical analysis for the reporter's article. Bratton, who's taken his share of media hits without losing his cool, lost it this time. Referring to the Times article, he said angrily, "Let's cut the bull - - - "

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© 1994 Newsday, Inc. Reprinted with permission.