Tags: nyc | mayor | wife | aide | noerdlinger

Embattled Aide to NYC Mayor's Wife Takes Leave

Monday, 17 Nov 2014 04:27 PM

A top aide in Mayor Bill de Blasio's administration said Monday she was going on leave after her son's arrest capped a string of damaging disclosures about her personal life, amplifying friction between the mayor and rank-and-file police.

Rachel Noerdlinger said she was taking an indefinite, unpaid leave from working as chief of staff to de Blasio's wife to spend more time with her teenage son and to avoid distracting the administration. But she and de Blasio also decried what they portrayed as unfair scrutiny of a public official's private life, with de Blasio saying it bespoke a "systematic effort to undermine certain work" of his administration and comparing it to 1950s-era political witch hunts.

"She's a hardworking public servant who's tried to do good throughout her life," de Blasio said, adding that "a lot of really nasty stuff was done here" but declining to elaborate.

Noerdlinger had become a lightning rod for politically charged questions that have swirled around de Blasio's administration, particularly its close ties to the Rev. Al Sharpton, Noerdlinger's former boss. Sharpton is a vociferous police critic whom police unions complain has been given too much sway at City Hall. The mayor also has faced questions about first lady Chirlane McCray's unusually prominent role in the administration, and about his efforts to define an aide's personal life as off-limits after his own family — including his teenage son — played a major role in forging his political image.

"It just feeds into all the concerns that people have about the administration," said Jeanne Zaino, a political science professor at Iona College. "Clearly, this had become an enormous distraction to the administration and the mayor."

Noerdlinger was appointed in January to her $170,000-a-year job for McCray, whose public duties include heading a mayoral charity fund. In September, news reports divulged that Noerdlinger's boyfriend, Hassaun McFarlan, pleaded guilty to manslaughter 21 years ago and mocked police as "pigs" on Facebook.

The city's Department of Investigation found in October that Noerdlinger hadn't disclosed during her background check that McFarlan lived with her. The agency didn't recommend discipline, and de Blasio declared, "Case closed."

Days later, news reports revealed that Noerdlinger hadn't disclosed a tax lien and that she and her son were riding in her car, with McFarlan at the wheel, when he got pulled over in New Jersey and arrested on a marijuana possession charge; an officer said the car smelled of pot smoke. Noerdlinger was given a summons for allowing someone to drive a car without a license.

Some newspaper columnists and the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, the city's rank-and-file police union, called for Noerdlinger to be fired.

Then her 17-year-old son, Khari Noerdlinger, was arrested Friday on misdemeanor trespassing charges. Police said he was hanging out in an upper Manhattan apartment building, couldn't tell authorities whom he was there to see and lacked identification. A judge agreed to dismiss the teen's case if he completes a day of community service and stays out of trouble.

The city is looking for someone to fill Noerdlinger's job, though she could return to another post. Patrolmen's Benevolent Association head Patrick Lynch said the city should seek "someone who appreciates the critical role that police have in making this city a viable place to live and who will not bring an anti-police bias to the table."

Sharpton said he respected the move by Noerdlinger, who said the past two months had been extremely difficult for her and her son.

"I can handle criticism and scrutiny of me, even when it's mean-spirited — that comes with the territory when you take on the status quo," she said in a statement. "But increasingly, my son has been subjected to attacks that have nothing to do with the public interest and everything to do with derailing this administration."

De Blasio said he respected her decision but the attention to her personal life was "far, far overblown."

"If a public servant does something that you have concerns about," that's fair game for scrutiny, but their loved ones' actions are not, he said.

"Would you all like to have that discussion about yourselves?" he asked reporters.


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A top aide in Mayor Bill de Blasio's administration said Monday she was going on leave after her son's arrest capped a string of damaging disclosures about her personal life, amplifying friction between the mayor and rank-and-file police.
nyc, mayor, wife, aide, noerdlinger
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2014-27-17
Monday, 17 Nov 2014 04:27 PM
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