on the record

A Search for Emails From Mike Bloomberg’s Mayoral Years

Mike Bloomberg campaigns for president in California in December.
Mike Bloomberg campaigns for president in California in December. Photo: @TeamMike2020/Facebook

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During his 12-year run as New York City mayor, Mike Bloomberg fired off at least 1,590 emails using an account on a server from the media company that made him a billionaire.

Those are the only “Bloomberg.net” emails penned by Bloomberg that landed in the city archives — and only after being screened by his private lawyers. City officials said on Thursday that more than 250,000 emails sent to Bloomberg at his company address were also in the archives.

De Blasio administration officials, meanwhile, say they’re still seeking city business-related emails sent from the same server by two dozen top Bloomberg administration aides who had Bloomberg.net accounts.

“Someone brought to our attention the Bloomberg.net [server] and we began in late 2014, early 2015 to pursue getting all of the email on the Bloomberg servers that was created by employees of the Office of the Mayor during the Bloomberg administration,” Pauline Toole, head of the city archives, told THE CITY.

But the only emails handed over from the Bloomberg.net LP servers to date are the relatively small batch sent to or from Bloomberg, who is now seeking the Democratic nomination for president. Those messages were first reviewed by the law firm Willkie Farr & Gallagher, officials said.

Following the screening — intended to separate city government business from personal or private business discussions — the emails arrived at the city archives in the summer of 2017.

Bloomberg ended his third term as mayor on Dec. 31, 2013.

‘You Have No Idea’

Toole said Bloomberg’s private lawyers were “the point people on setting the ground rules for how the entire email account would be reviewed and searched and the records pertaining to city government would be extracted and then sent to us.”

“It’s one thing for an archivist to go through and identify all the city policy stuff as opposed to business or personal, and it’s another thing to have a law firm employed — [because] you don’t know,” Toole added. “You have no idea what was thought to be inconvenient and isn’t there. How would you know? You can’t prove the negative.”

Representatives for Willkie Farr & Gallagher didn’t respond to an email seeking comment.

Bloomberg has long noted he had permission to use his private email address to conduct city business, based on a 2002 Conflicts of Interest Board ruling. That decision permitted the mayor to donate multiple Bloomberg terminals — with their own email addresses — to City Hall.

“We provided more than 10 million emails, including more than 500,000 emails to or from Mayor Bloomberg to the city,” said a spokesperson for Bloomberg’s presidential campaign, Julie Wood.

She said that when Bloomberg left office there was no requirement to hand over “day-to-day” government emails to the archives.

“But we went above and beyond the requirements by instituting a comprehensive email preservation system,” she added.

After this story was published Thursday, city officials disputed the number of emails cited by Wood, putting the figure at 268,284. Those represent include the 1,590 emails Bloomberg sent — along with messages sent to him at the Bloomberg.net email address, officials said.

THE CITY examined a sampling of about 500 of the emails sent to Bloomberg, filter them using search terms referencing major topics during his mayoralty — including NYCHA, the 2010 blizzard and Occupy Wall Street.

Few emails pertained to policy issues, THE CITY’s review found. Most were press releases and other notifications. Many of the emails were duplicates.

More Emails Sought

The city Law Department says it is still seeking emails pertaining to government business involving the other top staffers who used private emails, city officials said.

Officials who had Bloomberg.net emails during Bloomberg’s City Hall tenure included deputy mayor Patti Harris — now his campaign chair — deputy mayor and budget director Marc Shaw, and special assistant Nanette Smith, according to emails reviewed by THE CITY.

It was first reported in 2013 that Bloomberg and at least one staffer had been using the Bloomberg LP server to discuss government business.

A separate, larger batch of Mayor’s Office emails from the city government’s nyc.gov servers were immediately transferred to the archives through the city Law Department in early 2014, officials said.

City archivists said that 57,742 emails sent personally by Bloomberg via the nyc.gov server were provided to them.

Bill de Blasio, fresh off his 2013 mayoral victory, meets with then-Mayor Mike Bloomberg.
Bill de Blasio, fresh off his 2013 mayoral victory, meets with then-Mayor Mike Bloomberg. Photo: New York City Mayor’s Office

Toole said the process for cataloging the records has been slow going because her office was short-staffed and had no experts in digital archiving when Mayor Bill de Blasio appointed her in March 2014.

“We are trying to be as responsive to requests as possible without jeopardizing the integrity of this collection any more than it has been jeopardized by having it manipulated by a variety of other players,” said Toole.

Fears for Posterity

Historians are among those concerned about any lack of available mayoral records, especially as the digital age has changed the archiving game.

“The rule is that all public documents associated with any city office should be deposited in the archives,” said John Manbeck, who served as the chair of the city Archives Advisory Board for the Giuliani administration.

Then-Mayor Mike Bloomberg unveils former mayor Rudy Giuliani's portrait at City Hall in October 2010.
Then-Mayor Mike Bloomberg unveils former mayor Rudy Giuliani’s portrait at City Hall in October 2010. Photo: Kristen Artz/New York City Mayor’s Office

Manbeck and other historians were furious when Rudy Giuliani tried to keep records from the public archive in 2002.

Giuliani moved his papers to a private nonprofit organization created by former aides and friends. He only transported the records to the Municipal Archive after an outcry by historians and good-government groups.

Bloomberg, at the time, defended his predecessor and then-fellow Republican.

“I think that anything that makes it more difficult to get information is unfortunate,” Bloomberg told reporters. “But some of these documents are documents that the mayor has a right to have, and I am sympathetic if he would prefer that you didn’t look at them.”

UPDATE: This story was corrected to make clear that the 1,590 emails sent by Mike Bloomberg via his Bloomberg.net account are not the only messages associated with that address submitted to the city archives. The collection also includes more than 250,000 emails sent to Bloomberg at that address, city officials said Thursday.

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