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The lowdown on Bill vs. Rudy

November 25, 1996

The real reason William Bratton is considering running for mayor, say his closest aides, is simple. He misses the spotlight.

Or to put it in proper Brattonese: He misses making the big decisions.

Although his speeches are capturing some big bucks, his closest aides say his Joe Blow position at a security firm - a job he vowed he'd never take - isn't yet bringing in the money everyone had hoped. His ghost-written $350,000 autobiography, with a first draft due next month, may come in late..

In short, the greatest law-enforcement official of the decade, if not the century, as his agent refers to him, is bored.

Not that he (like most everyone else who's dealt with Mayor Rudolph Giuliani) has any love for his ex-boss. In fact, tasty, new morsels of mayoral egomania continue to bubble up.

Take Giuliani's pushing out of John Miller, Bratton's deputy commissioner for public information, which was apparently triggered by a flattering portrait of Bratton in the New Yorker magazine, with nary a mention of Rudy.

Bratton's closest aides say the mayor's target even then was Bratton. The mayor's plan, say these aides, was to goad him into quitting by forcing a key aide, Miller, out. The means: giving Miller an ultimatum to fire his entire 35-member staff by sundown.

The ultimatum was issued through Rudy's counsel and general factotum Dennison Young to Bratton's aide-de-camp, Peter LaPorte. Young told LaPorte the mayor had ordered lists compiled of each person in Miller's office. To ensure the firings, Giuliani wanted to know where each person would be newly assigned. LaPorte reported this to Miller and to Bratton.

Bratton then stalked down to Miller's 13th-floor office at One Police Plaza. With him were his longtime deputy Jack Maple, his newly appointed First Deputy Commissioner John Timoney and LaPorte.

As his aides recalled it, Bratton said to Miller, "What have you been ordered to do?"

"I've been ordered to flop everybody by today," Miller answered.

"I run this department," Bratton responded. "If we walk out, we all walk out together."

"That's just what they want you to do," warned Miller.

The crew spent three hours in Miller's office before departing for Bratton's on the 14th floor, leaving Miller behind. Their plan called for all five - Miller, Bratton, Timoney, Maple and LaPorte - to walk across to City Hall and resign together.

Timoney's willingness to join Bratton when viewed as his heir apparent further cemented their relationship. The two had not even known each other when Bratton became commissioner a year before.

Printable versionJust the previous month, the two became allied in yet another confrontation with the mayor.

The evening after Timoney had been announced at City Hall as first deputy commissioner, Young and Giuliani's then-First Deputy Mayor Peter Powers summoned him to Gracie Mansion. The reason, Timoney was told: He had offended the mayor by not mentioning him in his remarks accepting the first dep position earlier that day. He was told he'd better apologize.

Timoney alerted Bratton, who decided to accompany him, unannounced, to the mansion. Faced with the police commissioner himself, neither Powers nor Young mentioned Timoney's apology and nothing was ever said about it again.

Now a month later, on the Friday afternoon of Feb. 10, amid their discussions in Bratton's office, word came that Miller had resigned. His announcement, recorded by reporters and television cameras, defused the situation.

As we all know, Miller took the fall alone, though virtually his entire staff was forced to walk the plank that afternoon as well. As a Bratton aide put it: "Miller's resignation gave Bill another year until they came up with another way to get him out."

Seen: Mayoral press secretary Colleen Roche and Police Commissioner Howard Safir's press secretary, Marilyn Mode, standing a few feet apart at last week's Hispanic heritage ceremony, saying nothing to each other.

Heard: Bratton's peripatetic consultant John Linder, credited with writing Bratton's famed seven crime strategies while sleeping nights on Bratton's office couch, said to be avoiding Bratton's mayoral bandwagon in light of his $300,000 city contract to re-engineer the Administration for Children's Services.

Seen and Heard: Some smiling three-star chiefs following Commissioner Safir's dis of an even bigger chief at last week's executive staff meeting. Safir dissed a four-star chief when he dissented from the presentation of two precinct commanders who explained how they reduced their civilian complaints 30 percent with better training and sensitivity.

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Email Leonard Levitt at llevitt@nypdconfidential.com

© 1996 Newsday, Inc. Reprinted with permission.