Perdido 03

Perdido 03

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Bloomberg Fights FOIL Request For Chancellor Search Emails

A journalist cannot get Mayor Bloomberg's office to provide him with any emails the mayor's office either sent or received related to the alleged search that was done to find a replacement for Joel Klein as chancellor late last year before Bloomberg ultimately gave the job to Cathie Black

That journalist is now suing to get those emails:

Today, I am suing New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Last year, Bloomberg baffled New Yorkers when he appointed publishing executive Cathie Black to be the city's next schools chancellor. Black was an unpopular choice, and for months, responses to her appointment ran the gamut of ridicule, confusion, and outrage.

Black's tenure came to an abrupt end in April, when the mayor asked her to step down from the post after just three months on the job. New Yorkers who opposed her appointment were vindicated, but the question remained: What led the mayor to make such a choice?

When he first appointed Black, Bloomberg insisted he'd cast a wide net to find the right fit. "I did have a public search, and I picked the best person," he said.

But critics responded with skepticism, and the New York Times' City Room blog added a healthy dose of snark when it begged anyone who was considered for the job, or even merely heard about it, to come forward.

No one did.

At the time, I was reporting for Runnin' Scared, and in November, I filed a Freedom of Information Law request with the mayor's office to ferret out more details about the "public search" that resulted in Black's appointment. I figured the modern conveniences of e-mail meant there was a decent chance I would find a digital trail leading to Black's nomination.

So on November 19, I asked City Hall for any e-mails between the mayor's office and Black (who, at the time, was still employed at Hearst Magazines). E-mails by city officials are, after all, presumptively public records under New York's FOIL.

The mayor's office dragged its feet (which is not particularly unusual in the case of public records requests, although a spokesman told me for a separate storythat Bloomberg's office received only 38 FOIL requests last year. I guess New York City doesn't have enough lawyers or something). On January 13, a city lawyer wrote that he was denying my request.

The e-mails, he argued, were privileged, internal documents and releasing them would violate someone's (although nobody said whose) privacy. Bullshit.

I appealed the decision, and was blocked again.

By then, I'd left the Village Voice for a reporting stint with the investigative journalism nonprofit ProPublica and dropped the story until late February, when a friend of mine referred my case to the Media Freedom and Information Access Clinic at Yale Law School. In March, one of the clinic's students wrote me back, and we began working together to draft today's petition.

The case is being handled by Elizabeth Wolstein, a partner at Schlam Stone & Dolan and a former Assistant U.S. Attorney who used to supervise appellate litigation for the United States in the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. The petition will be filed in Manhattan Supreme Court later this afternoon, after which the city will have 20 days to respond.

We'll keep you posted.

Now if the FOIL requests were for Teacher Data Reports that use a flawed value-added methodology and have a margin of error in the scores of anywhere from 12%-36%, the mayor would try and have that request out faster than he can turn a New York avenue into a pedestrian plaza.

You see, those he has no trouble making public.

But FOIL requests about his alleged search to fill the chancellor position that ultimately went to Cathie Black?

Oh, no - that he'll fight with all the tools at his disposal.


  1. Little by little the little emperor is being exposed!!

  2. If he can request FOIL on teachers' data, then the media should FOIL him to death. Let's see the crooked, corrupted little emperior try to spoil this FOIL which will make his tail coil!

  3. this man is as shady as Central Park and people are JUST starting to see this! he put HIMSELF on the ballot by buying the City Council after we all VOTED "no" to extend term limits. he is the worst of the worst...makes Nixon look honest.