New York Post
November 17, 2014

 

OPINION

Case unclosed: Rachel’s exit doesn’t end NYPD debates

By Bob McManus

Photo: Gregory P. Mango
Rachel Noerdlinger

Rachel Noerdlinger, chief of staff to New York City’s first lady, took a powder Monday.

“Today I am announcing that I have decided to take a leave of absence to spend more time with my son,” Noerdlinger said in a statement.

Case closed? Probably not.

Noerdlinger’s departure — described as of “indefinite” duration — followed the Friday arrest of her teen son in Harlem, and a Sunday meeting at Gracie Mansion to discuss the matter.

The arrest, essentially for loitering, was no big deal by itself; had Khari Noerdlinger showed ID, he likely would’ve been sent on his way with a summons.

But it was a very big deal for his mother, bringing to a head weeks of revelations, many in The Post, regarding personal judgment lapses and other indiscretions that impeached her fitness for public employment of any sort — let alone for the job she held.

Naturally, Mayor de Blasio didn’t see it that way.

He was his usual peevish self with the press following Noerd­linger’s announcement: “If someone wants to smear people and use that for political purposes, there’s a pretty easy playbook for doing it. It’s repulsive, but it’s become quite common.

“If you want no one to become public servants, keep doing what you’re doing,” he said.

He’s got a point there — but it doesn’t take into account the fact that some people simply don’t belong in “public service” in the first place. Number Rachel Noerd­linger among them.

Her contempt for the conventions of the civil service was manifest: Not for her were the legally mandated, under-penalty-of-perjury disclosure forms and other such distractions of public employment.

Unpaid taxes? Unpaid parking tickets? A cop-baiting boyfriend with an industrial-weight criminal record?

Not to worry. She was Rachel Noerdlinger — confidante of Al Sharpton and, until yesterday, something of a Sharpton surrogate within the administration.

That carried a lot of weight — and it still might. Certainly City Hall left wide open the possibility of a Noerd­linger return at some point.

This suggests that the mayor hasn’t learned much from the affair. Which is also no surprise, because the entire Noerdlinger fandango has epitomized the pigheaded sloppiness that has marked his administration from Day One.

So perhaps it’s time to spell some things out.

First, it has never been explained just what Noerdlinger did for her $170,000 “chief of staff” salary. Nor was it clear what sort of “staff” she ran. How many staffers? Who did what?

City Hall wasn’t answering its ­e-mail yesterday, so those little mysteries must endure. (Maybe somebody will elaborate when Noerd­linger’s successor is named.)

In the end, though, that’s small potatoes.

But this really matters — and for more reasons than one.

All along, there was the question of Noerdlinger’s Trojan-horse presence in NYPD policy meetings — especially the department’s Comp Stat accountability sessions that she attended with First Lady Chirlane McCray.

Was it ever really appropriate for Noerdlinger to be in the room when public-safety strategies were being discussed — given her personal baggage? And her principal patron?

If Caesar’s wife must be pure, shouldn’t that hold for her “chief of staff,” too?

And then there is the matter of the Sharpton surrogacy — which on the merits would have been a disqualifier in an administration committed to sound NYPD practices. Which this one appears not to be.

To be sure, the formerly Rotund Rev’s presence in policing policy dwarfed Noerdlinger’s — so far as is known — and probably exceeds Police Commissioner Bill Bratton’s, too.

But she’s a symbol, and symbols matter — especially for a relatively new mayor who campaigned vigorously on the notion that the NYPD is an inherently racist organization, and who promised a root-and-branch transformation of the department.

The fact is that Rachel Noerd­linger was an inappropriate candidate for high office of any sort, even for a position as ill-defined as the one she left Monday — and especially for one in an administration at swords-points with its police unions and upside-down on public-safety credibility in general.

“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,” said PBA President Pat Lynch Monday.

Lynch isn’t without his own axes to grind, of course. But he’s right as rain on Rachel Noerdlinger, and Bill de Blasio would do well to pay attention.