By Anna Merlan
By Keegan Hamilton
By Albert Samaha
By Darwin BondGraham
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By Anna Merlan
By Tessa Stuart
By May 1, the Rudolph W. Giuliani Center for Urban Affairs was supposed to have in place the full staff necessary to complete the estimated million-dollar archiving of the former mayor's papers, according to the work schedule established in February by Giuliani and Bloomberg attorneys. That's when the centera private entity hurriedly created by Giuliani and given custody of the paperswas scheduled to hire two full-time archivists and two full-time archive technicians, plus obtain "contract services" for copying the 2000 boxes of records trucked out of City Hall in Rudy's final days.
It's unclear how much of this has been done. Saul Cohen, the Giuliani center lawyer, hung up on the Voice, refusing to answer questions about the public papers that even The New York Times said were "hijacked" by his client and have been warehoused in a Long Island City storage facility called The Fortress since late December. The Winthrop Group, the archival company whose contract with the Giuliani center to oversee the work has not been turned over to city attorneys or made public, says the archivists have been hired but not the technicians.
Winthrop spokeswoman Linda Edgerly insists that archiving has begun, but declined to answer questions about who has access to the only mayoral records ever to wind up exclusively in private hands. A company that specializes in writing histories for corporations like Corning and buyout firm Kohlberg, Kravis, Winthrop said the massive job of copying the papers "hasn't been done yet" (the originals are supposed to be returned to the city).
And the Bloomberg counsel, Michael Cardozo, who has otherwise demonstrated a commitment to open government by supporting full disclosure in response to Freedom of Information requests, has retreated behind a stone wall of artifice and ambiguity. While the new administration has hardly been reluctant to differ with many decisions of its predecessor, the Bloomberg team has drawn the line on this deal. Though the contract that the center entered into with Giuliani's records commissioner a week before leaving office gives the city 90-day cancellation rights, Bloomberg has no intention of invoking them, and is even threatening to veto a City Council bill that would require the return of the purloined papers.
Cardozo's drumbeating against the bill at an April 5 council hearing has apparently so far stymied Governmental Operations Committee chair Bill Perkins, who has yet to bring it to a vote though virtually every member of the committee spoke in favor of it. Perkins, who also held a highly charged hearing on the bill way back in February, told the Voicethat Bloomberg staffers are "unwitting accomplices" to what the councilman calls the "midnight" Giuliani heist, adding, "I wouldn't even say unwitting. They are accomplices in it."
The Perkins billwhich sets out policies designed to make sure that mayoral records are retained by the city and applies the policies retroactively to 2001was branded by Cardozo "an unlawful attempt to abrogate an individual act of executive discretion." Cardozo insisted that the agreement required that Winthrop archivists do "all" of the record processing and that they would be "solely responsible" for sorting through them. However the deal contains no such guarantee, and the city has no list specifying who is allowed to handle the papers.
photo: Fred W. McDarrah
In a Voiceinterview, Cardozo cited a clause in the agreement that limits access to "authorized personnel" as "defined" by his office and the center, but the corporation counsel conceded he has no idea who has been authorized. The Perkins hearings drew an array of archivist and historian witnesses, several of whom expressed concerns about who had access to the records, both because of possible shredding and privileged access that might be granted to certain researchers, particularly those working on commercial projects involving Giuliani.
Cardozo has become such an advocate of the Giuliani arrangement that, at the February hearing, he inaccurately claimed that Ed Koch's records had been handled in much the same manner as Giuliani's. Bloomberg made the same mistake at a press conference, suggesting that Giuliani's "not the first mayor that's done this" and insisting that "it's a practice that's been repeated a number of times." In fact, the city records department and archivists at LaGuardia College, a public institution, jointly processed copies of Koch's records, as well as those of other ex-mayors. The originals of these papers remained under city control.
"Koch's public papers have been open since the day he left office," testified Richard Lieberman, the LaGuardia archival director, shortly after Cardozo's appearance. "This was not 'I'll see you in three years' "the theoretical deadline for the Giuliani center to make his records public. Asked about Cardozo's revisionist reference to the Koch papers, Lieberman swore, "As I've stated very clearly, that's not true." Idilio Garcia Pena, the former records commissioner, confirmed his agency's role in preparing the documents sent to LaGuardia, contending that "procession is 90 percent of the game," and adding that both Koch and Dinkins had requested that their papers "be transferred" out of city custody and "were turned down."
Despite a record seizure that Koch himself has labeled "unprecedented," Cardozo's resistance and the council's stalling have combined to permit the Giuliani center to launch the processing of these records with virtually no public supervision. Though a Citizens Union review of the new council's first 100 days reported that only two bills have been passed by it and signed by the mayor, this legislation, which may face a daunting challenge of a two-thirds override vote, is moving at a pace Perkins can't explain. He says he's baffled why Bloomberg won't simply cancel the contract Giuliani struck; Bloomberg, on the other hand, appears prepared to refuse to implement the law even if overridden.