Reporter Wins Freedom of Information Suit Against Bloomberg Over Cathie Black Emails

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11/30/2011 1:02 PM |


This spring, Sergio Hernandez, a former reporting intern at the Village Voice by then affiliated with ProPublica, filed suit against the Bloomberg administration after they denied a Freedom of Information Law request for emails between the Mayor’s office and publishing executive Cathleen Black, prior to her brief, wondrous tenure as our Completely Unqualified Schools Chancellor.

At the time, Hernandez was working on a piece about the obvious cronyism that passed for the administration’s “public search” for the best candidate, and figured that conversations between Black and the Mayor’s office would be illuminating. (Emails sent from government addresses generally constitute official government business and are, with few exceptions, fair game for FOIL requests.) The Mayor’s office denied the request under an exemption for “communications that, if disclosed, would result in an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.”

Today, State Supreme Justice Alice Schlesinger has ruled that the city has 15 days to turn over the emails to Hernandez.

In her ruling, Schlesinger referenced Public Advocate Bill De Blasio’s ongoing inquiry into the Bloomberg administration’s routine stonewalling of requests from the press and public; she seemed rather tart, actually, like someone vaguely disgusted by excuses offered in defiance of objective standards, in declaring that “The conclusory, blanket denials do not satisfy the standard set by the law… a review of the two claimed exemptions reveals that neither one applies.”

Justice Schlesinger’s ruling also suggested something of the profoundly alienating affect the Black hire had on the public: “As Ms. Black did not meet the credentialing requirements for the all-important position of School Chancellor, the public has the right to know what information about her employment history and qualifications was disclosed in the e-mails.”

So, barring an appeal, we’ll see sometime this winter whether the Bloomberg administration was genuinely embarrassed at the prospect of what the emails contained, or merely indignant, as usual, at the idea that anyone would have a right to know what they’re doing.