Here we go again: some nosy reporters are making a big fat stink about some dumb little emails Mayor Bill de Blasio exchanged with some guy years ago. Why even bother reading this blog post about it? Something something Citi Bike! CLOSE TAB, brother.
Still here? Okay look, these emails aren't the secret emails that the mayor swaps with his friends/lobbyists called "Agents of the City," whenever he needs advice—those have already been released, and surprise! Nothing Burger.
These are emails the mayor received from disgraced real estate investor and de Blasio donor Jona Rechnitz, way back in 2014. Rechnitz is currently acting as the government's witness in a corruption trial against his old partner Jeremiah Reichberg, and NYPD Officer Jimmy Grant. Federal prosecutors allege that Rechnitz and Reichberg bribed then-NYPD Chief of Department Philip Banks III and his staff with trips and meals "in the hopes of building a network of powerful police officers who could help them obtain favors like lights and siren escorts to bypass bad traffic, or help fix tickets for their friends and family," Politico reports.
Now, keep in mind, the mayor has already turned over oodles and oodles of his emails with Rechnitz and Reichberg, under the state's Freedom of Information Law, and federal prosecutors looked at de Blasio's fundraising practices long and hard and decided not to bring any charges. (The mayor wouldn't have taxpayers pick up his $2.6 million in legal fees if he wasn't totally clean, right?)
But prosecutors found these two emails sent from Rechnitz to de Blasio's personal email account in 2014 that City Hall didn't turn over to reporters.
One email was Rechnitz asking de Blasio if he wanted to go to a Knicks game with him at his courtside seats. "The mayor, just over a month into his first term, responded within five minutes to Mr. Rechnitz," the Times reports. "The mayor declined the invitation, but said he wanted “to profoundly thank you for all the help you’ve given lately. Means a lot to me.”
The other email was sent to de Blasio when Chief Banks put in his resignation in October of 2014.
At the time, Rechnitz wanted de Blasio to try to convince him not to leave. In an email sent to the mayor’s personal Blackberry on Nov 3, 2014, he begged the mayor for help.
The email, which copied another de Blasio bundler, Fernando Mateo, had the subject line “Please help please please.”
"I'm in my office in a summit with Fernando, Norman and Jeremy,” Rechnitz wrote, referring to Mateo, former Corrections Officers Union President Norman Seabrook and Jeremy Reichberg.
“What can we do for you to refuse Banks's resignation and get him back in and for Bratton to see past Phil's monstrous mistake?" Rechnitz wrote.
Rechnitz said the mayor invited him to come discuss the matter in person, at the South Street Seaport, and the pair met.
Asked this morning why he didn't retain those emails, de Blasio told Brian Lehrer, "Brian, we turned over thousands of emails, we turned over everything we had, everything that was pertinent."
The mayor added, before leaving for a gathering of progressives hosted by Senator Bernie Sanders, "I just don't think it's a revelation, I think it's been covered many, many times over."
Sure, public servants are supposed to keep records of their business, even if they are using their personal email accounts (remember the last time a bunch of poindexters freaked out over a harmless personal email account?).
But as the mayor's press secretary points out on Twitter, an email to the mayor from a donor that results in an immediate meeting between the mayor and this donor to discuss the resignation of a top NYPD official is hardly city business!
now *that's* a lie, Greg. And you know it. You received an extensive list of emails we retain. Personnel Actions are one of them. Random emails from a private citizen complaining about an agency employee's status is not a Personnel Action by City Hall. Get serious.
— Eric Phillips (@EricFPhillips) November 29, 2018
"That sounds to me like city business," Robert Freeman, the director of the state's Committee on Open Government, and an expert in FOIL, but who has clearly never been the mayor, told Gothamist. "The records are supposed to be kept until the mayor leaves office."
"If I go home and i sit down at my personal computer, use my personal email address and communicate with you, relative to my governmental function, that's a government agency record that falls within the framework of FOIL," Freeman added. "Our responsibility is to abide by the law, and again, as I understand the law, that didn't seem to have occurred."
But all this fuss, over two little emails? (Well, maybe three, but who's counting.) How could they possibly be important?
"Do we know necessarily, now, what's really important?" Freeman muses. "I don't know, I don't know. There are a lot of things that with perspective we find more significant than we originally believed."