In his first public comments about a public records battle with NY1 since a judge ruled against City Hall, the mayor embraced the same line of defense he used when he was under investigation: lawyers gave him the OK. NY1's Grace Rauh filed the following report.
Mayor Bill de Blasio has long relied on the advice of key outside advisers, people who did not join his administration. But they were treated, in some cases, like de-facto city officials. In fact, the mayor says his lawyers assured him that his emails with those advisers would be kept from the public.
"A senior adviser who, on the advice of the mayor's office counsel, understood, as did a handful of other advisers, these are people I have worked with a long time, that they could provide direct advice to me on a range of issues and that would be treated in a certain manner in terms of confidentiality," de Blasio said.
More than two years ago, NY1 filed a public records request to see the emails the mayor exchanged with one of those advisers, Jonathan Rosen, who runs the powerful PR firm BerlinRosen. Many of the firm's clients do business with the city, including real estate developers, labor unions and nonprofit groups. But despite those conflicts, Rosen was involved in high-level policy discussions at City Hall.
When City Hall refused to turn over all the emails the mayor exchanged with Rosen, NY1 and the New York Post sued and won. But the mayor has hardly conceded.
"I think there's a human reality here," de Blasio said. "There's people you want to seek advice from that are your friends, your personal advisers. Everyone has those people in their life. And there still is a place in this world for a confidential conversation so that people can speak freely and think openly about issues."
There's no doubt public officials like the mayor have a right to talk to friends and advisers for help. But that's different than what happened here, when advisors who did not actually work inside city hall assumed outsized roles in the mayor's administration.