Rochester Critics Blast Warshaw, Lt. Gov. Over Cozy Relationship
By Mike Hudson
Long before the relationship between Robert Warshaw and current Lt. Gov. Robert Duffy made news in Niagara Falls - where Warshaw was awarded a lucrative, no-bid contract to oversee the city police department within days of Duffy and Gov. Andrew Cuomo's 2010 election victory, the pair were winning friends and influencing people in their native Rochester - where the romance began when both were high ranking members of the city police department.
Warshaw served as Rochester’s chief of police until 1998, when he was appointed assistant federal drug czar by former President Bill Clinton. Duffy, Warshaw’s loyal lieutenant and political ally, then stepped into the chief’s office, where he served until 2005 when he was elected as the city's mayor. Warshaw got some payback from his former protege when he was named to head up Duffy's mayoral transition team.
"When Warshaw was named head of Duffy's transition team, Duffy publicly stated that Warshaw was doing the job for free,” said Rochester Police Club President Mike Mazzeo. “Later it was found out that Warshaw received a contract to consult (Duffy’s successor) Chief David Moore, who Warshaw brought in as head of the transition team.”
Warshaw formed a company, Police Performance Solutions, ostensibly to advise local police departments around the country on race relations, the excessive use of force, sexual harassment in the workplace and other issues that grew in importance as society became more sympathetic to the plight of special interest groups and the criminal class.
But according to critics in Rochester and elsewhere, quantifying exactly what it is that Warshaw and his company actually do can be difficult.
“As president of the police union in Rochester, I have to deal with the economic conditions when negotiating with the city. It's hard to get a raise when this kind of waste of public funds is going on,” Mazzeo told the Niagara Falls Reporter. “We foiled the work product for Warshaw's consulting and the city could not turn over anything. That was Warshaw's payment for doing the transition team at no cost to taxpayers.”
Jim McTiernan, president of the International Association of Firefighters in Rochester, backed up Mazzeo’s assessment. The Rochester FOIL yielded no claim vouchers or evidence of any work product whatsoever, he said.
“My suggestion would be to make a FOIL request for Warshaw's work product in the falls to date,” he said. “If it is anything like his work in Rochester, there will be none.
"This story is much bigger than one city as you have started to see.”
Despite the lack of results in his hometown, the Washington connections Warshaw made during his years with the Clinton administration began to pay off. In places like Detroit, Mich; Oakland, Calif.; and Puerto Rico, Police Performance Solutions were awarded lucrative, open-ended contracts through the Department of Justice and liberal federal judges such as Oakland’s Thelton Henderson.
When Oakland City Administrator Deanna Santana accused Warshaw of making improper sexual advances toward her, Henderson - who appointed Warshaw - essentially ruled it was no big deal. Without saying whether or not Santana’s charges were true, Henderson simply wrote that they didn’t shake his confidence on Warshaw’s ability to do the job for which he’d hired him.
In Detroit and Oakland, Warshaw’s involvement was spurred by federal investigations of actual police corruption involving civil rights. Not so in Niagara Falls, where the feds couldn’t have cared less and the civil rights violations amounted to little more than unsubstantiated allegations.
Those allegations, combined with former Attorney General Andrew Cuomo’s insatiable political ambition and choice of Robert Duffy as a running mate, along with Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster’s unabashed contempt for law enforcement, were what landed Warshaw here.
The consent decree entered into by Dyster and Cuomo contains not a single proven case of racial profiling, use of excessive force against minority suspects or anything else normally associated with consent orders used by the Department of Justice. It merely assumes that the city police department as an institution is racist and prone to violence.
“The City of Niagara Falls shall retain, at its own expense, a qualified individual or organization from outside the NFPD to serve as an independent auditor, who shall be primarily responsible for consulting with a designated NFPD official in the creation and revision of the policies and training protocols referenced in this order and for auditing NFPD compliance with the terms of the order,” it states.
The consent order is, in other words, a jobs program. Someone will be hired to change the policies of the city police and that someone will be retained to make sure the police adhere to the new policies. The work created under the terms of the order is essentially never ending.
And Cuomo, just weeks away from his gubernatorial victory, made sure that he would have a say in just who that someone was.
“The selection of the auditor will be subject to O(ffice) of the A(ttorney) G(eneral) approval,” the document states.
Dyster gladly signed on the dotted line, handing over to some unknown “individual or organization” control of his own police department. And Dyster didn’t know Warshaw from Adam - didn’t know that he used to be the incoming lieutenant governor’s mentor and boss and remained his close friend.
Policies governing use of force reporting, supervisory oversight, internal review, data collection, training and numerous other matters are set to strict time constraints in the document, usually 60 to 90 days.
But now, almost two years down the road, none of the goals has been achieved, say top ranking NFPD brass.
“These policies and guidelines are things that other departments have already implemented,” said one top cop. “They’re already written down and it’s just a matter of compiling them.”
In bankrupt Detroit, for example, where Warshaw has been toiling for more than five years at a cost in excess of $1 million, the police department has successfully revised its policies governing use of force to specify the types of conduct by individuals that would justify the use of various levels of force; required officers to successfully qualify with their department-issued firearms every six months; revised its chemical spray policy to require a verbal warning and time for a subject to comply with an order prior to the use of chemical spray, and required written supervisory review of all arrests for probable cause and made numerous other changes already approved by Warshaw.
But it seems that simply using Detroit or any other successful model here in Niagara Falls would be too easy and maybe too quick. Warshaw and his associates are billing the taxpayers of Niagara Falls by the hour, after all.
Two hundred dollars an hour, to be exact, and Niagara Falls taxpayers have thus far ponied up more than $200,000 over the past two years on a contract entered into by Mayor Paul Dyster, who said at the time would cost just $57,000.
The reams of billings piling up in the city controller’s office show that Warshaw and his men are primarily involved in reviewing reports, occasionally writing reports, reviewing documents - which are presumably different than reports - engaging in “on-site services” and offering “technical assistance.”
They are also enjoying all the fine Western New York dining that a $127 per diem for meals can buy while staying at the Buffalo Marriot because there aren’t any decent hotels in Niagara Falls and making use of US Airways as though it were a taxi service.
The Niagara Falls Reporter reached out to Robert Warshaw last week, hoping that he could tell us what exactly he was doing here and how long it might take, but the nice lady who answered the phone at his North Carolina office said he was in Detroit and was going to Oakland and that he wouldn’t be available to talk for two weeks at least.
The lady was full of Southern hospitality and so we refrained from mentioning that they do have telephones in places like Oakland and Detroit, just as they do in the Tar Heel State, and that if her boss really cared what the people who are paying for his lavish lifestyle thought he might want to pick one of them up and tell his side of the story, if he has a side of the story.
Because otherwise it looks like Robert Warshaw’s lucrative, open-ended, no bid contract with the state and the city of Niagara Falls is nothing more than payback from an old political crony named Robert Duffy, who in turn was needed by the decidedly downstate Andrew Cuomo to deliver some upstate votes during the 2010 gubernatorial election.
In any event, we did take the advice of Mike Mazzeo and Jim McTiernan of Rochester and submit FOIL requests for all of the work product produced by Warshaw and his men for the NFPD over the past two years. We’re interested in seeing all these reports they’ve been writing and the technical assistance they’ve been offering.
With his Niagara Falls contract set to expire in November and with Cuomo, Duffy and Dyster likely ready to apply a full court press to keep him here, we think it’s important that the people who are actually picking up the tab have some idea of what exactly it is they’re paying for.
This story’s not going away any time soon.
|Niagara Falls Reporter - Publisher Frank Parlato Jr.||www.niagarafallsreporter.com||
Jul 23, 2013