Prosecutors mum if 400 million record NYCHA document dump was made in bad faith

By LOUIS FLORES

After Federal prosecutors received a court order for the release of health records about the possible lead poisoning of New York City Housing Authority tenants, it was reported that de Blasio administration officials have besieged investigators with a cumulative document dump of over 400 million records.

The size of the document production was reported in a report filed by Mireya Navarro for The New York Times.

A court filing made by Federal prosecutors showed that the investigation was more broadly described to be about the physical condition standards at the financially-troubled housing authority. As reported by Progress Queens, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for New York’s southern district has launched an investigation into possible financial misconduct and the health risks of, and the legal need for disclosure of, lead poisoning.

Although the Federal investigation relates to possible financial misconduct and health concerns, the documents produced by NYCHA were described to include training manuals. To defend the cumulative size of the document production, NYCHA CEO Shola Olatoye said that the Federal investigation was looking at “every facet” of NYCHA’s operations, according to The New York Times report.

It is not known how U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, the nation’s top Federal prosecutor for New York’s southern district, has reacted to each of the quality, and the cumulative size, of the city’s document dump.

A tactic used to frustrate investigations is for the target of an investigation to obstruct investigators by producing an enormous number of meaningless records. Although the tactic has a short-term result of causing delays that benefit the target of an investigation, if investigators can show that document productions were intentionally created to frustrate investigators, investigators have the option of adding continuing bad faith claims to underlying charges that originally prompted the investigation. Prior to that, though, the over-production of meaningless documents may act to telegraph to investigators that the target of their investigation may be desperate enough to attempt to obstruct an investigation, thereby providing an insight into the thinking of the target of the investigation.

On Monday, a representative of the U.S. Attorney’s Office would not answer questions posed by Progress Queens to determine if Federal prosecutors viewed the size of the document production as a bad faith act.

NYCHA officials have yet to answer a request for an interview about the Federal investigation. Similarly, the press office for Mayor Bill de Blasio (D-New York City) has not answered a request for an interview about the investigation into NYCHA’s finances and physical condition standards. In the past, Progress Queens has raised several questions about the sale by NYCHA of distressed Section 8 properties to real estate developers with political connections to the de Blasio administration.

On Monday, Progress Queens filed a request under the state’s Freedom of Information Law for electronic copies of non-exempt records produced by NYCHA to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. NYCHA has so far refused to acknowledge receipt of the FOIL request.

Reference Document

2016-03-21 Electronic FOIL Request - US Attorneys Office Request for Public Documents (NYCHA) [Scribd]