Earlier this month, Mayor Bloomberg tried to halfheartedly quell an old man fight between himself and undead Manhattan DA Robert Morgenthau, telling reporters, "As long as he's in compliance with the law, that's fine with me." But it's exactly those kinds of passive aggressive insinuations—that the DA might not be following the law—that drives Morgenthau to call Bloomberg names like "chickenshit." And now it's emerged that their war without end has cost tens of millions of dollars that would have gone to the city if Bloomberg had just kept his mouth shut and not tried to lean on Morgenthau for more.
It's complicated, but a great article in the NY Times blog Dealbook unpacks it pretty neatly. The feud stems in large part from Bloomberg's resentment that the city pays 80% of Morgenthau's budget, but for years has been splitting the settlement money 60/40 with the state. (Bloomberg was also outraged when Morgenthau threatened the city with manslaughter charges after the 2007 fire at the former Deutsche Bank building.) After Morgenthau rebuffed Bloomberg's demands for more settlement money, Hizzoner publicized the DA's office's longstanding use of 62 "secret" bank accounts, which Morgenthau insists were never secret.
Morgenthau believes the bank account kerfuffle was directly sparked by an incident in October, when he approached Bloomberg at a Waldorf-Astoria party to tell him the city would be getting $100 million from a settlement with Credit Suisse. Morgenthau says that instead of being grateful, Bloomberg ignored "an old Confucius saying, ‘Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth." The next day Morgenthau was told that the city, not the state, was entitled by law to all the settlement money that was coming in the Credit Suisse case. Governor Paterson caught wind of it, and introduced a bill requiring Morgenthau to split the settlement 50/50 between city and state—not the usual 60/40.
According to the Times, Michael Cardozo, NYC's corporation counsel, told Morgenthau the city would not go public about those "secret" accounts until after he left office in January, as long as he urged the governor to put off the bill until the new year. "Mr. Morgenthau refused, and the bill passed." So that's how a fight between two rich old white guys left the city even worse off than it was before. Can't they just do a tall bike joust and get it over with?