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What Were They Thinking?: The Christopher Lynn Story
Dorothy Brizill
March 13, 2000




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Christopher Lynn photo
Christopher Lynn, March 10, 2000

On Tuesday, March 7, the Williams administration announced that it would appoint Christopher R. Lynn to be the Chairman of the DC Taxicab Commission. This troubled Commission had been rocked by allegations of corruption against its former chief of staff, and for the first year of the Williams mayoralty it had languished, neglected, under an acting Chairman. In November 1999, Mayor Williams met with several hundred cab drivers and committed to working with them and to reforming the Commission.

When it named Lynn, the Williams administration trumpeted him as a go-getting reformer who had been the Taxicab Commissioner of New York City. Eric Price, the Deputy Mayor for Economic Development who had been responsible for recruiting Lynn, issued a press release on March 7 that said: “As Taxi Commissioner in New York City, Mr. Lynn imposed rigorous safety standards that helped clean up and modernize that city’s taxi industry. He envisions using state-of-the-art technology to assist the industry and its regulators in addressing issues of safety, fairness in rates and accountability.”

But once Lynn’s name was released, reporters began asking questions about his background — questions that the administration couldn’t or wouldn’t answer. When more and more facts about Lynn’s personal and professional history were revealed, questions were raised about the administration itself. Had anyone in the administration researched Lynn at all before naming him to this key position? Administration spokesman insisted that Lynn had been thoroughly vetted, but then denied that they had heard any of the many negative stories about his career.

On Friday, March 10, the Washington Post printed an editorial that revealed some elements of Lynn’s professional and managerial background, and raised serious questions about whether he should be nominated to the post. The Washington Times printed an article that covered some of the sleazier aspects of Lynn’s past. Lynn was in Washington that day, introducing himself to the staff and the other members of the Taxicab Commission and giving interviews to the press. But by the end of the day, he issued a statement saying that he was withdrawing his name from consideration.

For those who want to go beyond the stories that were printed in the Post and the Times, here are a series of links to a few of the major stories about Lynn from the New York press that are available on the Internet.

Lobbia, J.A. “The Company He Keeps: Chelsea Candidate Chris Lynn’s Suspect Pals,” The Village Voice, January 27-February 2, 1999. 

In his failed campaign for a New York City Council seat last year, Lynn’s campaign manager, Simon Valenzuela, was arrested for possessing cocaine, heroin, guns, and ammunition, and for using drug-processing paraphernalia.

In the 1980’s, Federal prosecutors characterized Lynn’s role as a criminal defense attorney for the “Baby Sam” Edmondson drug gang as being the gang’s “house counsel.”

McAlary, Mike, “Lynn Made Crack Biz Hum,” New York Daily News, October 23, 1996.

“. . . [W]hen a lawyer gets involved in crack murders, perjury, jury tampering and money laundering, as has been alleged by detectives, state and federal prosecutors and his former clients, he surrenders his right to be a public servant. It seems as if Lynn has been paroled after 13 crack murders. . . . City detectives, an informal fraternity, know about Lynn and the crack gangs. They and prosecutors have talked about Lynn on the record for the last nine months, alleging money laundering, perjury and jury tampering. There is a name — and a court document — with every allegation.”

Rein, Lisa, “DOT Whistleblower Honks Horn at Lynn,” New York Daily News, April 17, 1997.

“Transportation Commissioner Christopher Lynn hired a friend and former law client to make ‘No Honking’ signs for the Queensboro Bridge — then demoted a manger who blew the whistle. In apparent violation of city rules. Lynn ordered 100 signs from his friend last fall to calm angry  East Side residents and motorists stuck in gridlock created by the city’s rerouting of bridge traffic, Department of Transportation documents reveal.”

Tipaldo v. Lynn, New York Law Journal, October 22, 1999, finding by Justice Weissberg.

“The plaintiff, an employee of the New York City Department of Transportation (‘DOT’), alleges that he was illegally demoted because of his having reported to the Inspector General of the New York City Department of Investigation (‘DOI’) that the respondent DOT Commissioner, Christopher Lynn, had violated the applicable rules and regulations concerning the procurement of DOT street signs. . . . Upon completing the investigation, DOI concluded that the demotion was, in fact, retaliatory.”

Dwyer, Jim, “Spinning Light Blinds Bully’s Civic Senses,” New York Daily News, October 23, 1997.

“Christopher Lynn, the menace with siren and spinning light in his car, has managed to top his own spectacular record for abuse of power. When we last looked, Lynn had suspended a taxi driver’s license on the spot because the drive had an argument with Lynn’s boyfriend. . . . . This time, the victims are a parking lot owner and a police sergeant.”

Rashbaum, William K., “Furor Over DOT Bigs: Lynn, 2 Aides Hit over Cop Impersonation,” New York Daily News, October 23, 1997.

“The city’s transportation commissioner sat by as two aides allegedly passed themselves off as cops in a dispute with a Yankee Stadium parking lot owner who says he was bullied and threatened with reprisals for complaining. The lot owner, Rabbi Barry Kallenberg, also charges that after his run-in with Transportation Department Commissioner Christopher Lynn, a top agency official attempted to cover up the incident. His account was supported by senior police sources. . . . When Kallenberg was at the stationhouse making a complaint, the sergeant taking the information got a call from a high-level DOT official who told him to drop it. When the sergeant — a 26-year veteran with a stellar record — refused, the DOT official threatened him with an investigation by NYPD Internal Affairs. The official also threatened to shut down the rabbi’s business.”

Rutenberg, James, “$1M Blown in Rush for Bus Stop Signs,” New York Daily News, November 24, 1997.

“The city’s sleek new bus stop signs cost taxpayers an extra $1 million, largely because city Department of Transportation Commissioner Christopher Lynn wanted them up before the Nov. 4 elections, according to documents and contractors who bid on the job.”

Lombardi, Frank, and Larry Sutton, “Lynn Out as Rudy Shuffles City Deck,” New York Daily News, December 13, 1997.

“Christopher Lynn, the city’s shoot-from-the-hip transportation commissioner, got the boot yesterday as Mayor Giuliani began housecleaning for his second term at City Hall. Lynn will leave his $133,000 post for a quieter but powerful position on the city’s Tax Appeals Tribunal. The new job pays $103,800. . . . Lynn, who previously had been taxi and limousine commissioner, suspended a taxi driver’s license for allegedly offending Lynn’s boyfriend. As DOT chief, he got into a public argument with a Bronx parking garage owner after confiscating one of his signs; and he caused an uproar on Manhattan’s East Side by tinkering with the traffic patterns at the Queensboro Bridge.”

“Christopher Lynn Exposed,” Hells Kitchen [on-line magazine]. Page with links to many additional stories.

“Rudy Giuliani had appointed Christopher Lynn as Taxi and Limousine Commissioner, then as Transportation Commissioner and later demoted him to the Tax Appeals Tribunal. In 1999 Lynn lost a bid for Manhattan’s 3rd District City Council seat, garnering only 11% of the vote. The impression he left in the council race was one of bullyism and arrogance. But his behavior as a member of the Guiliani administration (and before) raises many questions. Particularly revealing is his close relationship to the real estate industry, developers and other Giuliani stooges such as Antonio Pagan and Donald Copoccia. The New York Daily News ran a series of in-depth articles detailing Lynn’s close ties and alleged illegal actions with certain drug gangs, his misadventures as Taxi and Limousine Commissioner and as Transportation Commissioner.”

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