Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Bloomberg Cover-Up Of Deutsche Bank Fire Continues

The NY Times reported on Saturday that Mayor Michael Bloomberg tried to have firefighters involved in the deadly August 18th fire at the toxic Deutsche Bank Building "debriefed" by city lawyers before the they talked to prosecutors in District Attorney Robert Morgenthau's office about the incident.

Prosecutors believe the city may have been trying to scare the firefighters into silence about the incident in order to save higher ups from a criminal probe and/or limit the city's criminal liability in the case.

Today the NY Post writes in an editorial that Bloomberg has hired one of the nation's top trial lawyers to represent the city in the ongoing criminal probe of the Deutsche Bank Building fire. The lawyer, Gary Naftalis, has previously represented officials at Tyco, the former CEO of Arthur Andersen in the Enron case and the Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI.)

Even the NY Post, normally a Bloomberg-friendly paper, wonders why Bloomberg would want lawyers "to get between Morgenthau and witnesses to a potential crime."

The Bloomberg administration claims they were merely trying "to offer to provide or pay for the firefighters' legal representation."

The NY Post editorial says it seems more likely they were trying to shape the firefighters' stories before the firefighters talked to prosecutors.

Now why would the "Accountability Mayor" want to do that?

Well, the Post says probably because the city failed to have an advance plan for fighting a fire in the Deutsche Bank Building and never inspected the site - even though a FDNY fire battalion chief had called for inspections of the building as part of the development of a pre-fire plan.

Because there were no inspections of the site by the city, the companies running the demolition of the building - John Galt Corporation and Bovis - were allowed to get away with numerous safety violations including the dismantling of the standpipe water system used to fight fires and the blocking of stairwells.

Two firefighters died as a result. Numerous others were injured.

Even worse, today's NY Daily News reports that the demolition of the Deutsche Bank Building was a nightmare of safety violations and near disasters long before the fatal August 18th fire. The Daily News says that federal documents show John Galt Corporation had repeatedly tried to mislead regulators about safety violations. For instance, Galt assured regulators that the standpipe water system was in "working condition" long after it had already dismantled it. Since nobody from the city came around to check Galt's claims, Galt got away with the violation.

Galt also tried to claim debris that was contaminated with toxic dust was "clean," but couldn't provide documentation to the Environmental Protection Agency to prove that claim. When the EPA came by to check Galt's claim, they found the 35th floor of the building contaminated with toxic dust. According to the EPA documents, Galt executives shrugged at the violations and said the building wasn't subject to any standards, "so what standard could it possibly fail?"

In addition, Galt nearly set the building on fire before the August 18th fire that killed the two firefighters and accidentally dropped pieces of molten metal from the building. Here's the Daily News account:

One of the worst days came on July 31, weeks before the blaze that killed Firefighters Robert Beddia and Joseph Graffagnino.

That day, CH2M Hill said Galt workers cutting steel on the 28th floor set afire safety netting hanging outside the building. Galt workers doused the blaze with extinguishers and a water hose.

Inspectors on the 23rd floor saw "pieces of molten metal" falling from above and landing on outside scaffolding.

Finally, they asked a Galt "management specialist" to identify the contents of drums of toxic waste that were to be transported from the building.

"After 15 minutes, it becomes apparent that the specialist is not really sure what is in each drum," the consultant wrote.

Two days later, the city Buildings Department ordered all burning work halted, issuing a violation for unsafe storage of combustible materials, records show.

A Fire Department spokesman declined to comment.

Sure the Fire Department had no comment. And sure Mayor Moneybags hired a high-priced defense lawyer who has made a career out of defending the indefensible (officials at Arthur Andersen, BCCI, and Tyco.)

They're trying to save their own hides.

Clearly higher-ups in the FDNY, the city Buildings Department and even City Hall should have known about all the safety violations that John Galt and Bovis were trying to get away with at the very high profile dismantling of the last vestige of 9/11.

And clearly somebody should have looked into the records of John Galt Corporation before it was hired to dismantle the building. With numerous ties to organized crime, the city and the state should have forced the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation to hire a less mobbed-up company.

But Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff, one of Bloomberg's top aides and a member of the LMDC, helped Galt get the gig.

Perhaps investigators should take a look at Deputy Dan's ties to this case?

And while they're at it, they should find out what Fire Commissioner Scoppetta and Mayor Bloomberg knew (or didn't know) about Galt, the safety violations and the dismantling process at the building.

Both Morgenthau and the state continue to investigate this case, even as the city tries to throw as many roadblocks in front of the investigators as it can.

Clearly there are reasons why Bloomberg feels the need to throw up so many roadblocks even while he claims to be doing everything he can to help the investigations along.

Can't wait to see what those reasons are.

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