CIVIC CENTER — After DNAinfo New York found that Mayor Bill de Blasio's compliance with the Freedom of Information Law would get a D by his own standards, he said that "a lot" of the FOIL requests his office gets "are very complicated" and that "the volume is very high."
The mayor's office receives roughly 100 requests per quarter, on average, according to their FOIL tracker, fewer than any of the agencies he graded in 2013 when he was public advocate.
At that time, he excluded any agencies that received fewer than 100 FOILs in a quarter.
"I know you guys, when you put them in, you want a lot of information in many cases and you want it to be accurate," he said to a roomful of reporters at City Hall on Friday. "We are very careful about making sure we fulfill your request fully and accurately but that takes a lot of staff time."
Asked if he was aware that not all FOIL request were from the media, but also came from residents and other groups, the mayor said he was but that it didn’t make a difference.
“Many of them are very elaborate requests. They take a lot of time and we have to do it right,” he said.
The Associated Press reported over the summer that the mayor's lawyers ordered the city's nearly 60 records access officers to send any documents that could "reflect directly on the mayor" to City Hall for review two weeks prior to handing them over to the public or press.
FOIL requests are required to be fulfilled, or denied with legal justification, within 20 days unless there is a specific reason on a case-by-case basis why they can't be.
The mayor's office replies to FOIL request with a form letter stating a deadline that they expect to meet, which they often delay multiple times, to the chagrin of the state's open government expert, Bob Freeman.
"A boilerplate response indicating that there will be a delay in every instance, is inconsistent with the law," said Freeman, who was one of the original authors of the Freedom of Information Law in 1974.
The mayor insisted he wants his office "to address the FOILs as quickly as can be."
The response came on a day when the mayor was under fire regarding transparency.
De Blasio has been criticized by the media for the number of times he makes himself available to answer questions on any topic, rather than limiting questions to topics of his choosing.
He only holds availabilities on any topic about once a week on average, which many in the press say is far fewer than previous mayors.
But the mayor said he is too busy accomplishing his agenda to spend time answering questions from the media.
"I have a job to do. Much more important than giving the answers to questions is doing the work,” de Blasio said.
As de Blasio’s press secretary Karen Hinton sought to end the press conference, de Blasio waved her off and continued to take questions for another 20 minutes.