This whole affair also lent credibility to another episode. In 1999, Kerik bought an apartment on 239th Street in Riverdale, which he then spent about $50,000 renovating. Stories written about this, however, said that he bought two apartments and combined them. To do this, the Daily News reported, he hired a contractor named Ed Sisca, who’d been indicted in a bid-rigging scheme and was later sentenced to four and a half years. Sisca, as it turns out, was the son of Gambino capo Alphonse “Funzi” Sisca.
It was further claimed that the engineer whose name appears on the construction permit was a guy named Charles Marino, who later pleaded guilty to filing false documents with the Department of Environmental Protection. The truth here, as far as Kerik goes, is very different from what was reported. It’s true that the two apartments were combined, but according to Jay Fenwick, a lawyer who represents the building’s management company, this was done long before Kerik entered the picture. And the shady contractor and engineer, he says, were hired by the building’s management, not Kerik. Fenwick told the Bronx district attorney’s office, which is investigating these claims, that Kerik was not involved at all.
But given his other lapses, it was easy to believe that Kerik had done something wrong again. In exactly the same way that it was easy to believe that a guy who was fined $2,500 for having detectives investigate his mother’s death for his memoir would also have Corrections officers getting overtime pay for working security at his wedding—a wedding where 60 to 70 percent of his guests were armed cops. Kerik adamantly denies that anyone was on overtime that day working security for him.
On December 1, when Kerik walked out of the White House as the Homeland Security designee, the first thing he did was call his wife. Then he called his brother, and then Rudy Giuliani. Kerik and Giuliani have been together since 1992, and their relationship is, by any measure, extraordinary. They met in 1989, shortly after Giuliani had lost his race for mayor against David Dinkins. Kerik, an undercover cop at the time, with hair down his back, an ear full of piercings, and a wardrobe of leather pants and cowboy boots, was helping the parents of murdered police officer Michael Buczek start a foundation in their son’s honor.
It was infatuation at first sight. Kerik entertained Giuliani with hard-boiled cop stories, and Giuliani was, for Kerik, “the most single-minded, brilliant person” he’d ever met. As Giuliani began to get ready for another run at City Hall, Kerik convinced him, according to an account in his book, that he needed people around him he could trust. Kerik got a couple of his buddies to provide security and to drive Giuliani during the week. Kerik handled the weekend. Hours in the car enabled them to get to know one another in a way few friends ever do.
Dick Grasso gave Kerik some survival tips, one disgraced public figure to another. He told him to stop reading the paper and watching TV.
Though the rumor has long been that Giuliani engineered Kerik’s Cabinet nomination, Kerik says it’s not true. “Rudy did make a call, but I don’t think it was necessary. I’d gone to Iraq for President Bush, I campaigned all across the country for him, and I was given a key speaking role in prime time at the Republican convention.”
Two days after Kerik accepted the president’s offer, he was publicly introduced in a Friday-morning photo op at the White House. He went home for the weekend and then was back in Washington for Monday, Tuesday, and much of Wednesday to lay the groundwork for his confirmation. At the same time, staff people at Giuliani Partners were preparing the paperwork and documentation for the formal application process. Three offices were filled with stacks of documents related to Kerik’s application.
On Wednesday, when Kerik returned to New York, he was told the staff had discovered a fourteen-month gap during which, it appeared, no taxes were paid for his nanny. Kerik went to Giuliani to ask what to do. Giuliani told him it wasn’t good, but as long as it was a tax issue and not an immigration problem, it wasn’t a fatal blow. The next afternoon, Thursday, with the anxiety level now cranked up pretty high, someone walked into Kerik’s office and asked him if he was sure the Social Security number for the nanny was the right one. Kerik says he was dumbfounded. In addition to the tax problem, the relentless calls from the media, and the mountains of paperwork that still had to be finished, he now had to worry about verifying his nanny’s Social Security number.
By the evening, with the work proceeding at a frenzied pace, everyone was lingering in Kerik’s office. “Then somebody walked in,” Kerik says. “I don’t remember who. In fact I don’t remember much about that moment other than hearing these words: ‘We have a problem with the domestic. It appears the Social Security number is registered to somebody else.’ Suddenly I could hear my heart pounding in my head,” Kerik says, “and I wanted to take the fucking gun off the desk and shoot him.
“I said, ‘Somebody get Rudy. I gotta talk to Rudy.’”
Giuliani came in and began to walk through the problem with them one step at a time. It was around ten o’clock, and everyone agreed that first thing in the morning, they’d call someone at Immigration. “I went home that night, and it was like somebody had sucked all the blood out of me,” Kerik says. “I was exhausted and I was beaten.”
By 10 A.M. on Friday—a week to the day after Bush had announced Kerik was his choice for Homeland Security—the problem was confirmed. Giuliani told Kerik he had to call the White House. Kerik made his first call to Dina Powell at eleven, and by 8:30 that night, he had talked to Powell twice, Alberto Gonzales four times, Andy Card three times, and the president once.