• U.S.

NEW YORK: New Business

2 minute read

Having come within a squeak of being elected Governor of New Yorkthis month by asserting that New York’s Democracy is a dirty political machine, famed young Republican District Attorney Thomas Edmund Dewey last week went back to work. He produced a dramatic indictment charging that a leading Tammany officeholder, whose name is a household word throughout the State, was a bribe-taker and extortionist.

The politician was ruddy, chubby Charles A. Harnett, since 1924 State Commissioner of Motor Vehicles. Tammanyite who introduced a song to celebrate the return from Europe of discredited ex-Mayor James J. Walker. Commissioner Harnett has managed to hold his $10,000 job through Tammany’s ups & downs, has been well and favorably known to New York’s 3,500,000 licensed drivers.

Other leaders in his profession throughout the U. S. respect New York’s safety measures and driving tests, which Commissioner Harnett has supervised although he never touches a steering wheel himself. Several States have copied the Harnett system of using two standard colors for license plates, reversing numerals and background each year.

Mr. Dewey became interested in Mr. Harnett’s activities last summer when the Commissioner appeared as a voluntary witness before a grand jury investigating Democratic Assemblyman Edward S.

Moran Jr., accused of taking $36,000 in bribes from New York City’s taxicab companies to influence legislation in their favor and help obtain a 1¢ reduction in the gasoline tax in 1936. Last week’s indictment of Commissioner Harnett, which District Attorney Dewey said he had refrained from springing before the election, charged him also with taking bribes.

Since 1934, charged Mr. Dewey, the Commissioner had received $67,000 from Parmelee Transportation Co., which operates 2,000 taxicabs in New York City, through President Morris Markin of Checker Cab Manufacturing Corp., Parmelee’s parent organization. In return, said the indictment. Commissioner Harnett had let Parmelee put up its own $250,000 bonding fund to save paying premiums to a bonding company, and then allowed Parmelee to “borrow” half its money back for operating expenses, while denying these special but not illegal privileges to rival companies. Arrested, fingerprinted, released on $5,000 bail, Commissioner Harnett denied all charges before resigning his post to save his Democratic superiors “embarrassment.”

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