The Bloomberg’s peculiar determination to keep anyone from seeing emails related to the hiring of disastrous School-Chancelor-for-95-days Cathie Black has encountered another setback.
In a ruling handed down yesterday, a panel of Appellate Division judges denied the city’s request to appeal a string of rulings requiring them to turn over the emails.
Sergio Hernandez was a reporter at the Village Voice when he first requested the emails under the state’s Freedom of Information Law in 2010.
“I originally filed the request on a lark,” he told the Voice today. “I thought there might be something funny in the emails. I didn’t expect something damning. But the longer they keep putting it off, the more convinced i am there’s something worthwhile in there.”
The city first stalled, exceeding the legally mandated 60-day time limit, then finally refused Hernandez’s request for the emails. He appealed, and they denied him again. But as Hernandez says, “Something Bloomberg and I have in common is we’re both stubborn.” He lawyered up, securing pro bono representation from Schlam Stone & Dolan, and sued the city.
In November of 2011, a trial court found in Hernandez’s favor in a strongly worded ruling that called the city’s arguments “particularly specious” and “wholly devoid of merit,” and gave the city 15 days to turn over the emails.
Instead, the city appealed the decision, stretching the process out another 12 months before they lost again. Once again they declared their intention to appeal, this time to the state’s highest court. That’s the request to appeal that was denied yesterday.
After the city announced it would further appeal last November’s ruling, Hernandez became even more curious. How much had the city already spent fighting to keep these emails secret? So he asked, with another FOIL request. What he learned was that between June of 2011 and November of 2012, the city had spent more than $25,000 on the case.
Asked today about whether the city will finally turn over the emails, and what rationale justifies spending so much taxpayer money to fight transparency, a spokesman for the Law Department issued this statement:
“The City believes that releasing communications sent before an appointee takes public office can discourage public service. We are still reviewing our potential next steps.”
Hernandez sees it differently. “Transparency and public access are really important for people to hold the government accountable,” he said.
Here’s the initial ruling in Hernandez’s favor: