- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 2, 2000

Housing Secretary Andrew M. Cuomo's chief bodyguard has forgotten his .38-caliber revolver on several occasions while on duty, leaving it where others could easily find it, agency employees say.

In the most recent incident, Clarence Day, a 68-year-old retired Metropolitan Police officer and close confidant of Mr. Cuomo, left the loaded pistol in the cafeteria of the Department of Housing and Urban Development and tried to retaliate against security officials who made a formal incident report, the employees said.

HUD spokesman David Egner acknowledged the Feb. 9 cafeteria incident but said, "There were no other incidents of any gun being left anywhere else."

Citing Mr. Day's 40-year career as a decorated Army veteran, police officer and bodyguard for six HUD secretaries, Mr. Egner said, "It would be wrong to judge his entire career based on one unfortunate and uncharacteristic incident."

But several HUD co-workers, who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation, said the latest and only officially reported incident Feb. 9 is part of a pattern dating back at least a year where Mr. Cuomo's bodyguard has left his gun and other belongings "lying around."

They said Mr. Day forgot his gun, which he carries in a small handbag, on at least two other occasions when he was traveling with the HUD secretary. The bag was found by federal motor pool employees and returned to him without an official incident report, the employees said.

The incident and existence of a formal report have embarrassed Mr. Cuomo, who has made a big issue of gun safety and recently joined President Clinton in efforts to restrict availability of firearms to the general public.

On Feb. 9, the gun was found that day by another cafeteria patron and turned over to HUD's security office. The gun was found in a black canvas bag imprinted with the official U.S. government eagle surrounded by the words, "U.S. Department of State Diplomatic Security Service," the report said.

According to the report, an official of HUD's building management office directed Lt. Col. Paul B. Berney, a supervisor for Knight Protective Service Inc., HUD's security contractor, "to write a report and have Mr. Day sign for the weapon once he came down to the security office to retrieve his weapon."

Mr. Cuomo and his assistant secretary for administrative services, Joseph Smith, personally interviewed three security and building services employees responsible for the report in an effort to pressure them to change it, an official said.

Mr. Day "exploded" after the gun incident report was placed in official files as an "adversarial report," one agency employee said. "He went ballistic. He threatened retaliation."

The incident report said Mr. Day "was most apologetic and grateful" when he went to Lt. Col. Berney's office to retrieve his gun on Feb. 9. "He explained that the weapon in question was his personal weapon and not his service weapon," the report said.

After the incident, the employees said, the secretary's office "put things in motion to bury the report" by appointing Mr. Day to replace Edward Willoby as department overseer of HUD's building security contract with Knight, a subsidiary of Halifax Inc.

Mr. Day was set to take over management of the security operation, officials said, until the move was questioned as retaliation for the adverse report regarding the gun incident. "That has been put in a holding pattern," said a HUD official involved in the discussions who asked not to be named. "Mr. Willoby is still the contract officer overseeing security."

Mr. Day and Mr. Willoby did not respond to repeated inquiries and telephone messages throughout the week. Lt. Col. Berney also declined to comment.

Mr. Day was forcibly retired July 31, 1999, by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), because federal law enforcement officers are required to retire at age 57. Officials could not explain this week how he was able to keep working 11 years beyond his mandatory retirement age and why he was forcibly retired only to be rehired immediately by Mr. Cuomo.

HUD officials said he is now a GS-13, Step 10 security specialist in HUD's office of administration. According to federal pay scales, Mr. Day earns $79,155 a year.

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