12/13/2007 05:15 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Rudy Watch IV: When "Transparency" Means Secrecy and Deception

At yesterday's Des Moines Register Republican presidential debate, Rudy Giuliani stated, "I think I've had an open transparent government and an open transparent life." As I know from my eight years as the NYC Public Advocate monitoring city services, the Giuliani administration was about as transparent as the Iron Curtain.

For example, there was enormous tension between the NYPD and communities of color in the Giuliani years, which burst into headlines over the police shootings of Amadu Diallo and Patrick Dorismond and the brutalization of Abner Louima. So in 1997 I asked for data about both the frequency of civilian complaints and their disposition. Mayor Giuliani and his deputies in effect told me to take a I hiked to the State Supreme Court, sued him and won. The court ruled that the Public Advocate under the City Charter was entitled to obtain the files of officers with substantiated complaints (with names and identifying information redacted) and that I was also entitled to find out how often these proven complaints led to any police discipline.

The Giuliani Administration appealed and the Appellate Division unanimously affirmed the lower court decision (664 NYS2d 232). The data showed that substantiated complaints led to NYPD discipline only 5 percent of the time, a number that significantly climbed in Giuliani's final years after we publicized the problem.

As another example of Giuliani's Iron Curtain approach, consider how in 1997 Comptroller Carl McCall intended to conduct audits of particular city agencies -- such as a program detecting welfare fraud -- as state comptrollers had done previously. But Mayor Giuliani ordered his city Health Department and Human Resources Administration to evict the state auditors, arguing that Democrat McCall only wanted to politically embarrass Republican Giuliani.

Again, as with the civilian complaints issue, this public official sued Mayor Giuliani -- and again the State Supreme Court and then Court of Appeals in 1999 both ruled against Giuliani. Even then, McCall said that the Mayor was defying a court order by refusing to provide everything the auditors were requesting.

So Giuliani's assertion that his was the most transparent administration ever was correct if the word "most" is simply changed to the word "least." His treatment of me and Carl McCall typified an approach which was invariably to stonewall information requests in an effort to delay or deny disclosures that might tarnish his name and record.

Finally on transparency and truth, there's his ludicrous assertion at this week's debate that everyone knew everything about the security detail for his then mistress Judith Nathan "six" years ago. Actually: no one publicly knew about it years ago because for some reason he didn't exactly herald the news of his "mistress protection program" in the year 2000.

Giuliani has refused to explain how alleged threats could have justified a security detail accompanying Ms. Nathan when she shopped and walked her dog before any knew who she was. No one knew about expenditures obscured in the budget of the Loft Board and Disability Rights Offices until broke the story two weeks ago, not six years ago. (In fact, as an indication of how improper this accounting was, Giuliani successor Mike Bloomberg returned to the procedures followed by Koch and Dinkins and paid for NYPD expenses out of the NYPD budget.)

And the chance, as Giuliani told Meet The Press's Tim Russert, that the NYPD under Bernard Kerik on their own insisted to Rudy Giuliani that then provide police protection to the Mayor's mistress--without Rudy having any say in the matter -is zero. That's not how Giuliani or Kerik operated.

Three City Officials got police security and city cars over eight years -- Rudy, me and Comptroller Alan Hevesi. Tragically, Hevesi years later as the State Comptroller was indicted and convicted of misusing public funds to transport his ailing wife. It's impossible to explain ethically or legally why Hevesi was convicted and evicted from public office for misusing his security detail for private reasons while Giuliani gets off scot-free by misleading or stonewalling journalists who ask about this scandal.