Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg still refuses to give up countless emails from more than a dozen of his top city staffers during his term as mayor of New York City that were hosted on private Bloomberg.net servers — despite years of requests by the current mayoral administration — according to nearly three years of records obtained by BuzzFeed News and interviews with current New York City officials.
“Bloomberg LP still needs to turn over the emails,” Freddi Goldstein, press secretary for New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, recently told BuzzFeed News about the billionaire’s company. “There is a responsibility to the public to turn over these records.”
While it’s been known Bloomberg used private servers during his 12-year term as mayor, a practice allowed under city rules, dozens of pages of records obtained by BuzzFeed News under the state disclosure law and interviews shed light on how the city spent recent years attempting to get Bloomberg’s staff’s emails and its exasperation at getting stonewalled.
The discourse from spring 2016 to fall 2018 shows the city’s Law Department began pressing Bloomberg LP to disclose emails from Bloomberg and his staff in April 2016. The requests began one month after the New York Daily News reported none of Bloomberg’s email had been made public.
The issue had been percolating since the year Bloomberg left office. In 2013, Gawker reported that Bloomberg and former first deputy mayor Patti Harris “use @bloomberg.net email addresses to prevent their conversation from becoming public documents.”
Bloomberg did eventually hand over thousands of his emails, but only emails in which he was personally the sender or recipient.
The City, which covers New York City Hall, reported in December that Bloomberg had sent 1,590 emails from his private server during his time as mayor; those were given to the Department of Records and Information Services in 2017.
However, the records obtained by BuzzFeed show at least 15 members of the former mayor’s staff, including deputy mayors and top policy advisers, were also “significant users of Bloomberg.net while they were in the Mayor’s Office,” according to a May 2016 email from the NYC Law Department to Bloomberg LP’s Tom Golden.
Officials in the de Blasio administration told BuzzFeed News in February that none of the emails from those 15 individuals were ever disclosed, except in cases where Bloomberg himself was the sender or recipient.
The New York City Charter says that documents of “historical, research, cultural or other important value shall be transferred to the municipal archives for permanent custody.”
Stu Loeser, a spokesperson for the Bloomberg 2020 presidential campaign, did not answer questions from BuzzFeed News about why the records on Bloomberg.net from those 15 staffers were not disclosed to the city. In an email, he noted that the staffers also had accounts hosted by NYC.gov, operated by the city, which were handed over for the city’s archives.
“Bloomberg LP provided to the City hundreds of thousands of bloomberg.net emails between the Mayor and his staffers regarding City business,” Loeser said. “The fact that some staffer used their terminals to message each other on non-City matters is no different than colleagues sending gmails to each other, which happens in every workplace.”
BuzzFeed News asked Loeser if he was suggesting the 15 staffers only used the Bloomberg.net accounts for nonwork communications with each other — which would be remarkable, since other records reveal that they used those private accounts for government business with the mayor. Loeser did not answer the question.
BuzzFeed News also reached out to Bloomberg LP and its law firm that handled the email matter, Willkie Farr & Gallagher, but did not hear back.
The records obtained by BuzzFeed News indicate Bloomberg LP slow-walked discussions about the records, including canceling a meeting at the last moment and missing a phone call entirely. City officials said they kept up phone calls to Bloomberg into 2019, but were ignored and finally gave up.
“If you keep calling, after a certain period of time and no one is returning your calls or responding to your emails, you know, there's other business to tend to, and it was clearly becoming fruitless effort,” an official in the New York City mayor's office told BuzzFeed News.
“I don’t think they really cared,” the official continued. “Their nonresponsiveness kind of tells you everything you need to know.”
In one email, sent at 10:30 a.m. on a Thursday in September 2016, Bloomberg LP lawyer Tom Golden told the city’s Law Department, “I suggest we cancel this afternoon's call; no new information on my end.”
Golden had also missed one of the calls with the Law Department entirely that June. “Sorry got tied up,” Golden wrote the same day as missing the scheduled call, “tried to send a meeting cancellation but probably did it incorrectly.”
In response, an official in the Law Department said, “It looks like you weren't able to make the call....Maybe we could touch base next week and return to our biweekly schedule.”
Bloomberg’s campaign did not answer a question from BuzzFeed News about why Bloomberg’s staff had not allowed city officials to review the emails from those 15 staffers to decide whether they merited preservation.
The 15 Bloomberg administration staffers identified as “significant users” of the Bloomberg.net server, according to the city’s records, are as follows: Michael Best, deputy counsel to the mayor; Anthony Crowell, director of operations and counselor to the mayor; Daniel Doctoroff, deputy mayor for economic development; John Feinblatt, chief adviser to the mayor for policy; Shea Fink, scheduler; Patricia Harris, first deputy mayor; Vincent La Padula, senior adviser; Robert Lieber, deputy mayor for economic development; Kim Molstre, deputy mayoral aide; Kevin Sheekey, deputy mayor for government affairs; Edward Skyler, communications director and deputy mayor for operations; Nanette Smith, mayoral aide; Robert Steel, deputy mayor for economic development; Dennis Walcott, deputy mayor for education; and Howard Wolfson, deputy mayor.
Those officials could have been discussing any number of current events, de Blasio’s office official said.
“They're the people making the city run,” the official said. “I can tell you that staffers at that level are discussing everything from a snowstorm to major policy announcements.”