November 25, 2014

Mayor Sees Witch-Hunt In Noerdlinger’s Ouster

Police Unions Elated


Mayor de Blasio followed up the decision of his wife’s controversial Chief of Staff, Rachel Noerdlinger, to take a leave of absence after the arrest of her son with a blast at the press for reporting on her problems with her boyfriend, her son and her finances.

“We saw this in the 1950s, we’ve seen this throughout the history of this country,” Mr. de Blasio said Nov. 17 at a press conference in Brooklyn. “If someone wants to smear people and use that for political purposes, there’s a pretty easy playbook for doing it. It’s repulsive.”

Evoking Joe McCarthy

The reference was to U.S. Sen. Joseph McCarthy, who more than 60 years ago charged that Communists infested the State Department, the administration of President Harry S. Truman and the U.S. Army. He never produced proof, and in 1954 was censured by the Senate. But his activities touched off a coast-to-coast hysteria that led to the Hollywood blacklist and loyalty oaths for New York City Teachers.

“I think the notion that somehow, in modern society, not just your own actions, but your girlfriend or boyfriend, your own teenage child, somehow all of this is fair game in the public discourse, I think something’s gone wrong here that we really need to look at,” Mr. de Blasio said. “I for one think everyone deserves some measure of privacy in their public life, even if they are a public servant.”

He indicated that he believed the attacks on Ms. Noerdlinger came from enemies of his progressive agenda. “Why would so much attention be given to one person and her personal life?” he said. “It’s clearly a pretty systematic effort to undermine certain work that’s being done, and we’re not going to be dissuaded by that one bit.”

Unions Not Mourning

Two major police unions took a very different view of Ms. Noerdlinger’s leave. The unions have never liked her former employer, the Rev. Al Sharpton, and were not thrilled when she accompanied the Mayor’s wife, Chirlane McCray, to an NYPD Compstat briefing

Ms. Noerdlinger announced Nov. 17 that she was taking an indefinite, unpaid leave of absence. The decision came three days after her 17-year-old son, Khari, was arrested in the lobby of an apartment building on West 164th St. in Washington Heights.

He and three friends had been hanging out and were passing around a bottle of cognac, according to news reports. He and one friend did not produce identification and were arrested. The other two young men did show ID and were given summonses. Two of the youths were charged with possession of pot. Khari Noerdlinger, who was charged only with criminal trespass, was held in jail overnight and sentenced the following day to one day of community service.

“I have decided to take a leave of absence to spend more time with my son,” Ms. Noerdlinger said in a statement. “These past two months have been extremely difficult for both of us, and his arrest on Friday heightens the need for me to devote my full attention to Khari, my number-one priority.”

High Salary an Issue

The controversy over Ms. Noerdlinger started with her appointment in January. Some observers questioned why Ms. McCray, who was never elected to anything, needed a staff member on the city payroll making $170,000 a year. Others who are not fans of Mr. Sharpton objected because Ms. Noerdlinger had been director of communications for his National Action Network. Many of Mr. de Blasio’s critics say Mr. Sharpton has too much influence with the Mayor.

A blizzard of negative disclosures began Sept. 25, when the website DNAinfo reported that she “is in a serious relationship with a convicted killer and interstate drug-trafficker.” She has lived for the past three years with Hassaun McFarlan, who served a prison term for manslaughter as a teenager. He has been arrested several times since then, most recently a year ago, when prosecutors said he almost hit a New Jersey police officer while driving Ms. Noerdlinger’s 2004 Mercedes-Benz.

More stories followed: Ms. Noerdlinger did not inform the Department of Investigation, which vets high-level city officials, that she lived with Mr. McFarlan, as is required on its background questionnaire for those seeking high-level jobs. She failed to tell the Conflicts of Interest Board that she was paying off a $28,000 Federal tax lien. She was in her Mercedes with Mr. McFarlan in 2011 when they were pulled over in New Jersey and he was arrested on marijuana-possession charges. She owes nearly $900 in city traffic tickets on her car, and Mr. McFarlan dropped her name—to no effect—with an Administrative Judge who was ruling on some of them.

Anti-Cop Postings

Mr. McFarlan and/or Khari Noerdlinger have posted messages on social-networking sites that could be considered derogatory to police, white people and women. Ms. Noerdlinger received a city waiver allowing her to continue living in New Jersey so her son could continue to see his doctors due to two car accidents in 2012. But it turns out he plays linebacker for the Palisades Park High School football team.

Mayor de Blasio had sought to cut off criticism of Ms. Noerdlinger. His office issued a statement several days after the initial story saying DOI had “found no evidence of intent to deceive the Mayor or City Hall.” “Case closed,” he told reporters at the time.

In her departure statement, Ms. Noerdlinger said, “I am profoundly thankful for Bill and Chirlane’s unwavering support over the last few months. I can handle criticism and scrutiny of me, even when it’s mean-spirited—that comes with the territory when you take on the status quo. But increasingly, my son has been subjected to attacks that have nothing to do with the public interest, and everything to do with derailing this administration. I do not want to be a distraction—the work at hand is far too urgent.”

Among Ms. Noerdlinger’s detractors are the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association and the Sergeants’ Benevolent Association.

PBA: No Bias, Please

“Should City Hall decide to fill what is a very questionable position, we hope they can find someone who appreciates the critical role that police have in making this city a viable place to live and who will not bring an anti-police bias to the table,” PBA President Patrick J. Lynch said in a statement.

SBA President Edward D. Mullins, at a roundtable with reporters, said, “She’s embarrassing City Hall, describing individual viewpoints as mean-spirited when in fact she failed [to be candid] in her application for employment and was dishonest with the people of the City of New York.”

The New York Times reported that Ms. Noerdlinger’s decision to take a leave came after a meeting she had Nov. 16 with Mr. de Blasio and Ms. McCray. Mr. Sharpton said Ms. McCray would be welcome to return to the National Action Network.