MIDTOWN — Mayor Bill de Blasio said efforts to prevent the disciplinary records of police from being released is different than his efforts to prevent the release of email communications with advisers he has dubbed "agents of the city."
De Blasio has said state law does not allow the NYPD to release the disciplinary records of officers even though it was common practice for years. On a separate front, the mayor is being sued by NY1 and the New York Post to release the emails with his advisers.
"I think you’re talking about two very different realities, so let me lay it out. On the police records, I have a clear position that I want to see the state law changed and I want us to be able to release those records," de Blasio said Friday on the Brian Lehrer show on WNYC.
"On the question of the mayoral advisers — guidance was given to me very early on by my Counsel’s office that when some individuals are very, very close advisers that it is appropriate to have a private relationship with them," the mayor added.
Four of the advisers, Jonathan Rosen, Nicholas Baldick, Bill Hyers, John Del Cecato, ran the mayor's campaign and subsequently helped run a nonprofit to push his political agenda that is now being investigated by federal and state authorities.
The men are not paid by the city but some have received millions from the mayor's nonprofit and represent companies with business interests before the city.
The fifth adviser, Patrick Gaspard, is the U.S. Ambassador to South Africa and maintains a close friendship with de Blasio.
"Now, in the case of anyone who also happens to have clients, any specific request around the work they did for their clients and if, in any way, that interacted with City Hall that we would release right now," de Blasio said.
Good government groups have said de Blasio's "agents of the city" designation is a work of fiction which only serves to limit transparency.
The 40-year-old law barring the release of police disciplinary and personnel records was not enforced to assure the public of transparency following an era of NYPD corruption, DNAinfo New York reported.
The new effort to enforce the law was due in part to DNAinfo New York’s “On the Inside” column in April which reported that NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo, who was involved in Eric Garner’s chokehold death, was found guilty of making an “unauthorized frisk without legal authority” during a separate stop that pre-dated the 2014 Garner tragedy.
De Blasio has called for the state law to be changed.
But even as de Blasio calls for a change to the state law, the city is fighting the release of Pantaleo's records in court. Gov. Andrew Cuomo criticized the city's stance.
"I don’t think this is primarily a state law issue. The police department, for many years, released the records. They have now decided not to release the records," Cuomo said earlier this week.
Asked about the obvious discrepancy, de Blasio said the city was taking a legal, not policy position.
"The reality of the city’s overall legal position — meaning the need of the city to defend our legal prerogatives in all sorts of cases in very narrow, obscure legal ways — makes people think it’s a policy matter. It’s not," de Blasio said.
"City lawyers have an obligation to defend the CCRB (Civilian Complaint Review Board) and to argue that we have to follow the law as it is clearly indicated right now. We can’t make it up as we go along," he added.
Garner's mother Gwen Carr has criticized the city's decision to fight the release of Pantaleo's records.
“It's a total double standard — as soon as our children are killed by the police, they release their records to criminalize them, but we don't get any information on the officers who murder them,” Carr said earlier this week.