An appeals court has shot down Mayor de Blasio’s attempt to keep secret emails between City Hall and outside advisers dubbed “agents of the city.”
The court ruled that de Blasio must hand over the emails after a lawsuit by NY1 and other news organizations seeking their disclosure under the state’s Freedom of Information Law.
A lower court had ruled the same way, but Hizzoner appealed.
De Blasio was seeking to shield communications with consultants like Jonathan Rosen and his firm BerlinRosen, who were hired by the mayor’s now-defunct and scandal-scarred political nonprofit the Campaign for One New York.
“The communications are not exempt,” wrote Judge Anil Singh in an opinion joined unanimously by five other appellate court judges. “The office of the mayor lacked a reasonable basis for withholding its communications.”
The court ordered City Hall to release any communications it continues to withhold, and to pay attorneys’ fees for the plaintiffs.
While the case has been fought out, thousands of pages of emails have been released, including about 1,500 pages that were previously withheld.
“These documents include examples of the mayor and Mr. Rosen discussing issues important to BerlinRosen’s private clients. The documents are the types of communications that the FOIL meant to make available to the public,” the court wrote. “Respondents’ attempts to withhold these communications run counter to the public’s interest in transparency.”
City Hall sought to argue that the Rosen emails should remain private under an exemption that shields consultants hired by the government, even though he was hired by de Blasio’s private nonprofit organization.
“This argument is without merit,” the court wrote, adding that allowing it “closes the door on government transparency.”
The city has not decided yet whether it wil appeal to the state’s highest court.