PUSH COMES TO SHOVE MILLER'S TOP AIDE ATTACKS REPORTER

Peter Wehrwein Staff writer
Section: MAIN,  Page: A1

Date: Friday, October 16, 1987

In an incident recorded by a television camera crew, a top aide to Assembly Speaker Mel Miller shoved a New York Post reporter to the floor Thursday morning as the reporter paid a "surprise visit" to the offices of the Assembly House Operations Committee to see if there was a sauna there.


Hours later, Miller issued an apology to the reporter, Fredric Dicker, and said he would meet today with his $79,500-a-year aide, Norman Adler, to discuss the confrontation. "Unfortunately, the current news climate has created tense working conditions for our hard-working men and women employees of the Assembly," the statement by Miller said, referring to stories about alleged legislative payroll abuses. "Today, it boiled over and there was over-reaction for which I am truly sorry."


Late Thursday, Dicker said he was not satisfied with the apology and had spoken to lawyers at his newspaper's law firm about the possibility of filing criminal charges and a civil suit.


Dicker said Adler had also phoned him and said he was "truly sorry," explained that while they both had a job to do, "we should be able to do it as gentlemen. This thing today was hardly the act of gentlemen."


The incident began at about 11 a.m. Thursday when Dicker showed up unannounced at the House Operations Committee offices on the 20th floor of the building at One Commerce Plaza in Albany, commonly called the Twin Towers.


He was accompanied by a reporter and camera crew from WRGB (Channel 6) and by David Galletly, station manager of Albany public-radio station WAMC- FM (90.3).


Dicker also brought a photographer with him, Jim Carras, and a photograph of the incident was on the cover of the Post by Thursday afternoon, under the headline, "Post News Chief Beaten."


Dicker wrote a story two weeks ago that said House Operations Committee employees worked months for on political campaigns when they were on the committee's payroll. He said Thursday he had asked about the sauna because an employee of the committee told him that there was one in the Twin Tower offices.


On the 1-minute-14-second television tape aired Thursday on WRGB, Adler was seen meeting Dicker and the others as they entered the office, and reading a prepared statement in which he said reporters "will not be permitted spontaneous access to the Assembly operations offices."


After Adler turned his back and started walking away down a hallway, Dicker could be seen following him, asking questions about who was paying for the offices and then asking to see the sauna. Adler turned around and said to Dicker, "I am afraid of you - because I know you have a black belt." Later, at the Capitol, Dicker said he had a green belt in karate, not a black belt.


After telling Dicker to get out of the offices and insisting he talk with Miller's press spokesman, Geoffrey Taylor, Adler could be seen pushing Dicker backward by shoving him with both hands on the reporter's chest and saying repeatedly, "with Geoff Taylor."


Dicker then ended up on the floor, and with a slight smile on his face, he said, "What, are you crazy?" As Dicker started to rise, Adler appeared to either push or kick him down again, and said, "Do you want to protect your privates?"


The reporter, who said he received a kick to his right thigh when he was down, went to a doctor in Albany after the incident, saying it aggravated his already bad back. If the pain continues, he said, he will get X-rays taken today.


The Bronx-born 43-year-old reporter - who appears to be about the same height as Adler, who is in his mid-40s, but somewhat lighter at 155 pounds - said he is not a "street fighter."


"I came from the old-fashioned school of journalism - tough, fair and respectful," he said, adding that his manner of questioning is confrontational only if measured against other reporters, who he described as a "bit too wimpy."


Dicker, wearing the same charcoal gray, pin-stripped suit at the Capitol hours later that he was wearing during the incident, said he had arranged "collegially" to have the television and radio reporters with him when he made what he described as a "surprise visit" to the committee's office.


Noting the offices that the offices are paid for with public funds, Dicker said the visit was not an meant to be confrontational.


"On the contrary, it was not an ambush at all. This office is under investigation by two major law enforcement agencies, at least," he said.


Adler was sealed off from press questioning after the incident and Miller's deputy press secretary, Jim Gash, said late Thursday afternoon that Adler had gone home to his New York apartment.


Later in the day, a reporter and camera crew from public-television news show "Inside Albany" had no problem visiting the offices on a previously scheduled appointment. A week before they, too, had been turned away, although without violence.


In his prepared statement, Miller said: "What I would like to ask of the news media is to provide advance notice to our Assembly press office when they wish to tour various offices. This way we can strike a balance between the efficient operation of the Legislature and the rights of the press."