De Blasio withholds information on arrest of supporter

Orlando Findlayter. ()
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When Mayor Bill de Blasio heard that a prominent bishop and early campaign supporter, Orlando Findlayter, had been arrested during a traffic stop in Brooklyn, the mayor picked up the phone and, as he later told reporters, "made an inquiry."

According to The Wall Street Journal, which first reported the incident, "The mayor's office sent emails to the NYPD officials and Deputy Chief Royster said Mr. de Blasio called her to inquire about the arrest."

The story flared up, then died down. 

But since that Feb. 10 incident, de Blasio’s office has declined repeated requests by Capital to release information related to the matter.

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The requests were made under the Freedom of Information Law—a law whose importance de Blasio highlighted in a 2013 report measuring agency responses.

Capital filed three FOIL requests.

One was filed with the mayor’s office seeking any written correspondence sent from de Blasio’s staff to the NYPD between Jan. 1 and Feb. 12 related to Findlayter.

Two FOIL requests were filed with the NYPD: one seeking Findlayter’s Feb. 10 arrest report, and one seeking any written correspondence the NYPD received from the mayor's staff about Findlayter from the beginning of the year to Feb. 12.

On Feb. 19, the mayor’s record access officer, Benjamin Furnas, wrote back saying: “We are investigating your request. We will require twenty business days in which to reach a determination or an estimate of the time required to reach such a determination.”

Twenty-four business days later, on March 25, Furnas wrote to Capital, saying, again, he needed “an additional twenty business days in which to reach a determination or an estimate of the time required to reach such a determination.”

On March 27 and again on March 28, Capital emailed Furnas to ask why additional time was needed. He did not respond.

On March 28 and March 30, Capital emailed the mayor’s spokesman who handles NYPD-related matters—Phil Walzak—asking to discuss the delay. Walzak did not reply to those emails.

On April 1, Capital emailed Walzak again asking about the status of the FOIL request.

Walzak replied saying it was being handled by their FOIL officers. He did not reply to an April 1 response asking why the mayor’s FOIL officer was seeking more time.

On April 2, at 7:54 a.m., Capital emailed Walzak to give him a heads-up that Capital would be writing about the delayed FOIL response.

Walzak replied at 8:01 a.m. and said he would check with the FOIL officers to see if more information was available. He sent no information that day.

At 3:27 p.m. on April 2, Capital emailed Walzak asking if there were any update. Walzak replied at 4:56 p.m. saying he had no information, and added: “For the record – I haven’t seen the letter to you providing any explanation so im in the dark here.”

At 5:39 p.m., Capital sent Walzak a copy of the FOIL response written by the mayor’s record access officer. Walzak did not reply to that email.

The FOIL requests sent to the NYPD were similarly delayed.

In response to the two FOIL requests Capital sent the agency on Feb. 12, the NYPD replied, on Feb. 20, with two identically worded letters saying the department needed more time.

“Before a determination can be rendered, further review is necessary to assess the potential applicability” of the request “and whether the records can be located.”

The records access officer, Richard Mantellino, went on to write: “I estimate that this review will be completed, and a determination issued, within twenty business days of the date of this letter.”

That was 30 business days ago.

Earlier this week, Capital called the NYPD official assigned to handle these FOILs. He said he had not been authorized to release the information.