Mayor Bill de Blasio frequently relies on the advice of outside consultant, but it is hard to know just how much he depends on them. And New Yorkers may never really find out. City lawyers are refusing to release e-mails between the mayor and his privately-employed advisers. Government watchdogs say the mayor needs to come clean. Our Grace Rauh has the story.
Critics accuse Mayor de Blasio of setting up a shadow government — comprised of consultants who are not paid by City Hall, but pocket cash from clients, many of whom have business before the city.
The arrangement has long drawn complaints but it is generating a new wave of condemnation, because City Hall is refusing to release emails the consultants exchanged with the mayor and his top aides.
"It's disappointing to see the mayor, whose whole persona in government is about doing it for the people and being transparent about it, and to be relying on a legal analysis from some lawyer about whether this consultant's communications are protected is ridiculous," said Dick Dadey with good government group, Citizens Union. "Just disclose."
More than a year ago, NY1 made an open-records request for emails between a top de Blasio consultant, Jonathan Rosen, and the Mayor and high-ranking administration officials.
The request was denied, even though emails between city officials and people outside government are presumed to be public. In a letter to NY1, a city lawyer referred to Rosen as a consultant to the Mayoralty. He argued the emails were protected by the same exemption that keeps us from seeing many of the e-mails the mayor sends to his City Hall staff only.
A spokesman for de Blasio says: "The Mayor has worked with a number of people over the years who he continues to seek advice on a variety of political and communications issues. When these advisors consult with the Mayor in the interest of the Mayor’s Office and not on behalf of clients, those communications are not subject to disclosure."
Rosen declined to comment.
The open-records denial comes as federal and state investigators are examining the mayor's fundraising and political activities.
The investigations have put a spotlight on the mayor and his consultants. However, when it comes to their emails, de Blasio seems determined to keep New Yorkers in the dark.