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Mayor and Deputy Used Private Email Addresses for City Business

By  James Fanelli and Ben Fractenberg | October 1, 2013 6:48am 

 Mayor Michael Bloomberg has used his private email account to discuss city business.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg has used his private email account to discuss city business.
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D Dipasupil/Getty Images

CITY HALL — Mayor Michael Bloomberg has a private way of discussing city business — using an email account from his company, Bloomberg L.P.

DNAinfo New York has learned of correspondences between Bloomberg and a deputy mayor in which each uses an @bloomberg.net email address to discuss city-related matters.

The identity of the deputy mayor, the dates of the emails and the content of the correspondences are being withheld by DNAinfo to protect the source.

It isn't clear how often the mayor uses a private email account to communicate with his inner circle. But the discovery of the @bloomberg.net correspondences drew concerns from good government groups who see it as a way of avoiding oversight.

“It’s an end run around public access to public documents,” civil rights lawyer Norman Siegel said.

Like most government employees, Bloomberg and his staff have City Hall-issued email accounts. Under state law, the public has the right to see copies of those emails.  

Siegel and Bob Freeman, the executive director of the Committee on Open Government, both said that the public also has the right to officials’ personal emails when the correspondences discuss government matters.

However, the public first needs to know the addresses of those personal accounts, Siegel said.

“I do believe that when public officials do public business using their private emails, those emails are subject to the Freedom of Information Law,” Siegel said. “When people resist giving up that information, it’s an end run around. We should criticize that kind of behavior.”

A search of a Bloomberg L.P. terminal shows that at least nine members of the mayor’s inner circle have @bloomberg.net email accounts.

They are: deputy mayors Patty Harris, Cas Holloway and Robert Steel; chief policy adviser John Feinblatt; director of intergovernmental affairs Haeda Mihaltses, Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott; counselor to the mayor Michael Best; senior adviser Shea Fink and mayoral spokesman Marc LaVorgna.

The mayor’s financial data firm offers bloomberg.net addresses to individuals who lease its $20,000-a-year terminals. City Hall and other agencies use terminals that Bloomberg L.P. donated to them.

LaVorgna acknowledged that Bloomberg and top aides have private accounts.

“Yes, people have personal email accounts. It’s no different than everyone with a Gmail, Hotmail or Yahoo account,” he said.

LaVorgna didn’t address whether the mayor and his staff conducted city business on these accounts, but said on a personal note that he sticks to using his government email.

“In my five years here, I’ve sent and received emails all day and night, every single day on my City Hall email account with senior staff at City Hall from their City Hall accounts,” LaVorgna said.

Other high profile administrations have been criticized for avoiding use of government emails. In 2007, key aides to President George W. Bush came under fire for using private emails connected to the Republican National Committee to discuss White House business.

A year ago, the Daily News reported that Gov. Andrew Cuomo used Blackberry’s messaging system with top staff to avoid leaving a paper trail of his correspondences.

DNAinfo reported on Sept. 17 that many government-issued email accounts from the Bloomberg era could end up in a digital dumpster when the mayor leaves office on Jan. 1. That's because the Bloomberg administration doesn't have a preservation plan in place for emails connected to the mayor's office, the NYPD, the Department of Education and other agencies.