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Read the press release here.

Mayor's Open Government Record Would Get D Under His Own Grading System

By  Danielle Tcholakian and Nigel Chiwaya | November 4, 2015 7:40am 

 Mayor Bill de Blasio.
Mayor Bill de Blasio.
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Getty/Kena Betancur

CIVIC CENTER — It's a tale of two de Blasios.

As public advocate, Bill de Blasio criticized city agencies for failing to answer Freedom of Information Law requests from media organizations and the public in a timely manner.

"Transparency and responsiveness in government decisions and policies engenders trust in our democratic process," he said in 2013.

"Clear guidelines and required disclosure practices not only ensure accountability of government entities, it also supports the engagement of the public and promotes the voice of the citizenry."

Back then, he criticized the NYPD for having 28 percent of the 1,883 FOIL requests it received in one quarter go unanswered for more than 60 days.

But of the 741 FOIL requests Mayor Bill de Blasio's office received since the start of his term through Oct. 27, 38 percent were delayed for 60 days or more.

Public Advocate de Blasio gave the NYPD an "F" in a 2013 report where he graded 18 agencies under former Mayor Michael Bloomberg's administration.

Public Advocate de Blasio Grades the NYPD

So how would de Blasio rate his own administration using his own criteria?

It turns out Public Advocate Bill de Blasio would have given Mayor Bill de Blasio a D.

DNAinfo used the mayor's own 2013 rubric as well as his FOIL tracker — an online database that shows the number of FOIL requests received by the mayor's office, the date they were received and whether they have been answered.

► Response time contributed to 40 percent of the final grade — an agency could get a C with 13 percent of requests outstanding past 60 days.

► Unanswered requests also accounted for 40 percent of the grade — a C could be earned with as much as 10 percent of the requests having gone unanswered.

► Ease of filing accounted for 20 percent of the final grade.

de Blasio Foil Grade

The mayor's office got an F on response time for taking more than 60 days to respond to 38 percent of the requests they have completed. They got a D for having left 16 percent of requests unanswered for more than 180 days, and a B on ease of filing for having a webpage dedicated to filing FOIL requests and maintaining the FOIL tracker.

Told of the D grade, mayoral spokeswoman Ishanee Parikh highlighted the creation of the FOIL tracker.

"The administration unveiled a first-of-its-kind FOIL tracker for the Mayor's Office last year, and we continue to work to upgrade and improve it," she said.

Bob Freeman, the executive director of the state Committee on Open Government, contributed a laudatory quote in the 2013 press release for the public advocate's report.

Asked if he remembered the report, he replied, "How could I forget and how could I not be disappointed in what I see today?"

"My expectation was the implementation and the recognition of FOIL would improve under Mayor de Blasio, but from my perspective that simply has not occurred. It has been disappointing to see the treatment of FOIL under this administration."

Freeman is informed anytime a requester appeals a denial, and the agency or office behind the denial is required to send him a copy of their response.

Asked what he thought of the D grade, he replied, "In consideration of what I have seen of responses from the mayor's office, from my perspective, a grade of D would be appropriate."

De Blasio emphasized in his 2013 report that agencies must give a written explanation of any "reasonable circumstances" requiring an extension to fulfill the FOIL request.

The mayor's office frequently extends the deadline of FOIL requests with a form letter which is "inconsistent with the law," according to Freeman, who was one of the original authors of New York's Freedom of Information Law in 1974.

"A boilerplate response indicating there will be a delay in every instance," Freeman said, is "mishegas."

City Hall's form letter attributes the delay to "the volume of requests that we have received."

Public Advocate de Blasio also judged whether the number of requests received by the agency was "low" (fewer than 200 requests in a quarter) or "high" (more than 1,000 requests in a quarter).

Mayor de Blasio's office receives roughly 100 requests per quarter, on average, according to the FOIL tracker. That's fewer than any of the agencies he graded in 2013.

"The Mayor’s Office works diligently to respond to a large volume of often time-consuming requests in as expeditious a manner as possible,” Parikh said.

She added that the Mayor's Office "often" receives requests that require it to review thousand of emails.

In his 2013 report, Public Advocate de Blasio blasted agencies who delayed responses to FOILs, referring to the tardy replies as “perhaps the most concerning indicator of agency non-compliance.”

Of the 741 requests Mayor de Blasio's office has received through Oct. 27, more than half were left incomplete for 60 or more days. His office left more than 100 requests incomplete for six months or longer — 15.78 percent.

The Mayor's Office has more than a dozen FOILs still pending from 2014, several of which are more than a year old.

When asked about the 2014 FOIL requests, Parikh maintained that they are "voluminous" and said 11 of them have received partial responses. 

One of the reforms the public advocate proposed was for the city to “assess financial penalties against agencies that repeatedly fail to disclose public information.”

The mayor's office did not respond when asked if the mayor still believes agencies who delay or don't comply should be fined.

Here is the 2013 report:


De Blasio 2013 FOIL Report