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Saturday, April 12, 2014

The De Blasio Coverups Continue Under the Watchful Eyes of Corporation Counsel Zachary Carter

Zachary Carter

By Azi Paybarah 12:18 p.m. | Apr. 11, 2014
De Blasio official on transparency ‘in the abstract,’ and in practice

When Mayor Bill de Blasio was asked last week about his administration's unexplained delays in responding to Freedom of Information Law requests filed by reporters, he said that he was not "a lawyer" but that his staff was following the law.
This morning, the city's top lawyer briefly touched on the issue of transparency, saying that it's not so easy to throw the doors open and let everyone see everything.
“The trick is, I think most of us favor transparency in the abstract until your outbox is being gored,” said the city corporation counsel Zachary Charter. “Obviously we would support anything that, consistent with other important values, increases transparency.”
Carter made the comment in response to a question following a speech at New York Law School. Afterward, Carter told reporters that the issue of transparency is “more complicated because you have to make sure the information that is being disclosed—I think that people who are sincerely committed to transparency can still take into account the impact that it could have an impact on other things we value, like privacy, like the fact that certain kinds of inter-government communications should be confidential in order [to allow] candid conversation among people in government.”
De Blasio’s responsiveness to FOIL requests came under scrutiny following his administration's handling of requests for information related to the arrest and release of one of his supporters earlier this year.
The supporter, Bishop Orlando Findlayter, was arrested Feb. 10 in Brooklyn after police officers spotted him making a left turn without signaling. They later found he was driving with expired insurance and an outstanding warrant which, it turns out, was for failing to show up to court to deal with a civil disobedience arrest at a protest about immigration reform in 2013.
The mayor called a top NYPD spokesperson to inquire about Findlayter, who was an early campaign endorser. The NYPD released Findlayter that evening and he attended a clergy breakfast de Blasio hosted the following morning.
The incident raised questions about the level of discretion local police officials have in detaining people with outsanding warrants, and what role City Hall played in expediting the release of the mayor's ally. The Wall Street Journal, which first reported the mayor's phone call on behalf of Findlayter, also wrote that City Hall officials sent emails to the department the night of the bishop's arrest.
Hours after Capital published a story describing some de Blasio's FOIL delays, his administration responded to several news outlets' requests for information about Findlayter—without handing over any information.
Records sought by Capital included communications between City Hall officials and the New York Police Department related to the Feb. 10 arrest of Findlayter, as well as the arrest reportOther outlets also sought communications City Hall officials received from the public about Findlayter's arrest.
Asked this morning if City Hall should release communications sent to the NYPD related to Findlayter, Carter politely declined to comment, saying the Freedom of Information Law is complex, and not something he is directly working on.

 Bishop Orlando Findlayter at the New Hope Christian Fellowship Church. He was arrested because a failure to
pay his car insurance led to a license suspension and he also had two outstanding warrants from an immigration protest.

Mayor De Blasio set a bad precedent by making a call to the NYPD to "talk" about his friend Rev. Findlayter, and then telling him to not talk about it. The new monitor of the NYPD should investigate. This is a matter of public interest. Meanwhile, if a person you know is arrested, call the Mayor's office and ask them to call the police to set your friend/relative/other, free.

Betsy Combier



Bishop Orlando Findlayter, an early supporter of Bill de Blasio’s campaign
for mayor, after giving a sermon in Brooklyn on Sunday morning. Ozier Muhammad/The New York Times

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