The Chief

April 7, 2000

 

PBA Hits Barring of Official

Charges Brothel 'Libel'

By William Van Auken

Accusing the Police Department of denying rank-and-file cops proper representation in an interrogation and of libeling a senior union official by referring to him as a "subject" in the Midtown South brothel investigation, the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association filed an improper practice petition with the Board of Collective Bargaining March 24.

 The complaint cited an incident last December in which PBA Manhattan South Financial Secretary Walter J. Liddy was barred from the interrogations of two Police Officers who had asked him to represent them.

'Protected' Brothel

The labor-management dispute has broken out over an ongoing department investigation into charges that over a period of 15 years some cops in Midtown South provided protection to a brothel on West 39th St. In return, authorities say, they were given use of a rent-free apartment where they consorted with prostitutes and "cooped" during working hours.

 Several cops pleaded guilty to criminal charges of bribe-taking and other misconduct over their connections with the brothel. Another 15 officers were placed on modified assignment.

The first two officers to be interrogated, Michael Quinn and James Howard, were questioned not about the brothel but in relation to unauthorized off-duty employment. The charge stemmed from participation by several Midtown South cops - including the precinct's commanding officer - in a rock-and-roll band known as "The Nines."

 Caught in Dragnet

According to union officials, the band had a one-time public performance at a party celebrating a PBA delegate's election and became an issue only because of the brothel probe. The commanding officer was subsequently transferred out of the precinct and received a command discipline.

According to the union's complaint, Mr. Liddy came to the Internal Affairs Bureau's Hudson St. office on Dec. 21 to represent the cops. An IAB Sergeant stopped him at the door to the interrogation room, however, and told him he was excluded as a "potential witness" in the case.

When the PBA official insisted on his right to advise the officers, the Sergeant told him, "You are not getting in the room. I will send the cops home and they will come back on Christmas Eve with another trustee."

Afterwards, a union attorney wrote a grievance letter to Chief of Internal Affairs Charles V. Campisi charging that the assertion that he was a "potential witness" was a "thinly veiled attempt to exclude an effective PBA official from his representative function." The department responded by officially notifying Mr. Liddy that he was a witness in the administrative investigation.

NYPD Claimed Conflict

The complaint further cited an article in the March 3 edition of this newspaper in which a department spokesman announced that Mr. Liddy was excluded from the interrogations because he could be "questioned as a subject in the case."

The petition states that Mr. Liddy, who was a uniformed cop and a PBA delegate in 1998, when the criminal investigation into the brothel case began, was never placed on modified assignment and never questioned either by investigators or as a grand jury witness.

His sole "involvement with the criminal investigation was limited to counseling PBA members, advising them of their rights as union members, and facilitating the assignment of legal counsel," the petition said.

By barring the PBA executive board member, the com-plaint charges, the department violated the cops' rights under the Civil Service Law to representation in an interrogation, as well as the PBA's collective-bargaining agreement, which states that the NYPD must "permit representatives of department line organization to be present at all times during interrogation." Finally, it interfered with Mr. Liddy's rights to participate in union activity, the petition said.

The document further expressed the union's concern that the department may in- tend to question Mr. Liddy "about information he might have acquired in the course of representing and counseling Police Officers in his capacity as a PBA delegate and current PBA board member."

'Libelous' Description

Identifying Mr. Liddy as a "subject" of the investigation into the brothel was "libelous," the complaint said, adding that the NYPD had done so as an act of "retaliation and discrimination" for the PBA's having challenged his exclusion from the questioning of union members.

Calling upon the BCB to grant the PBA permission to seek an injunction in State

Supreme Court, the union said that Mr. Liddy "will suffer irreparable injury in that he will continue to suffer the stigma of being named as a subject and witness in an investigation involving a house of prostitution, undermining his effectiveness and reputation as a union official and police officer. ..."

The union said it would seek an order demanding that the department stop referring to Mr. Liddy as either a witness or a subject of the investigation, and barring any interrogation of the union official. It also called for an order to stop "interfering with Liddy's right to counsel and to represent" PBA members in the administrative investigation.

The BCB has until April 7 to issue a decision on the demand for injunctive relief. Given that the board has ceased all such rulings because of the Giuliani administration's failure to appoint two labor representatives to the BCB, the union expects to be given leave to file suit in State Supreme Court.

An NYPD spokesman declined to comment on the complaint.