Widening effect of N.Y.C. scandal. City and county officials find themselves under greater scrutiny
Though other issues, both local and international, have bumped New York City's corruption scandal off page one of the city newspapers recently, its effect has been profound, both in how the public perceives government and how local government is being run. The wheels set in motion early this year, when evidence of scandal in the city's political and governmental circles surfaced, are moving steadily on. The charges have centered on bribery and fraud in the city's Parking Violations Bureau, but the repercussions have rippled farther than the PVB, affecting top city officials (a number of whom have resigned in the scandal's wake), the office of New York City Mayor Edward I. Koch, and county political organizations.
Each of the key ``players'' in the continuing drama -- federal and local judicial investigators, the press, politicians, and a commission studying ways to deter corruption -- have been busy. Among the recent developments:
Jay L. Turoff, former head of the city's taxi and limousine department, was indicted yesterday on mail and tax fraud.
Federal prosecutors tentatively agreed to move the coming trial of Bronx Democratic leader Stanley M. Friedman out of state. Defense lawyers had argued that widespread news coverage in the New York City area of the corruption scandal could affect a fair trial. Mr. Friedman and five business associates face charges of bribery, forgery, and coercion.
Court documents released Monday in the PVB case indicate that defense lawyers may call into question the key government witness, former deputy director of the PVB Geoffrey G. Lindenauer, because of his ``mental state.'' According to an edited version of a court hearing June 2, released at the request of the Associated Press, Friedman lawyer Thomas Puccio told the judge, ``We have received information that [Lindenauer] has undergone a nervous breakdown at one point in recent memory. We believe that we are entitled, possibly, to ask for him to be examined.''
At City Hall, continuing scandal has exhausted and exasperated those involved with the daily running of the city. Press attention to potential trouble spots is intense. One employee tells of going over his r'esum'e carefully to make sure there was nothing that could be misconstrued, and making sure all parking tickets were paid up.
Such scrutiny caught up Victor E. Botnick, a close friend and adviser to Mayor Koch and chairman of the city's Health and Hospitals Corporation. Mr. Botnick had repeatedly misrepresented his educational credentials while in city government, telling reporters that he had graduated from college and had been offered admission to a medical school. In fact, Mr. Botnick never graduated from college, although he did attend.
Botnick admitted his error, but Koch refused his resignation and said he would give his adviser another chance. The mayor ordered him to perform 30 days of public service as penance.
This drama has also affected the way New Yorkers view their normally irrepressible mayor. A Daily News poll last week shows the mayor's popularity is at its lowest level since the scandal began, with a 10 point drop since February. The poll also shows that 44 percent of all New Yorkers disapprove of the way Koch is handling the investigations of alleged corruption in city government.