de Blasio administration thwarting FOIL release of Sanders rally permit documents sought by GOP group

By LOUIS FLORES

A group aligned with the Republican Party has received a partial release of records sought from the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation in response to a Freedom of Information Law request.

The partial release of records, however, have been described by the group as "almost entirely redacted" that "barely disclosed any information."

The FOIL request, filed by America Rising PAC, sought records about the possibly conflicted role played by Mayor Bill de Blasio (D-New York City) in the review of a rally permit request applied for by the presidential campaign of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont). America Rising PAC was founded by a former official of the unsuccessful presidential campaign of hedge fund manager Mitt Romney

Sen. Sanders had sought use of Washington Square Park for a political rally in the time leading up to the New York State presidential primary. The campaign reported experienced difficulty in negotiating with the City of New York over the date of the permit. After much negotiation, the campaign was reportedly approved to use the park on April 14.

Suspicion arose about the reported difficulty experienced by the Sanders campaign over the rally permit application date of April 14 when the rival presidential campaign of former First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton requested that the Sanders campaign move the date of his political rally in order to accommodate her fundraising schedule during separate discussions to negotiate the date for a primary debate between the two Democratic Party nomination candidates.

What was suspicious about former First Lady Clinton's request was the noted ease with which Mayor de Blasio reportedly expressed that the City of New York could accommodate a change in the date of the Sanders rally permit date, which stood in stark contrast with the initial difficulty experienced by the Sanders campaign to first obtain approval for the April 14 rally permit date.

Several months before the Sanders campaign had applied for the rally permit, Mayor de Blasio had endorsed the presidential campaign of former First Lady Clinton. In the time since that endorsement, he has campaigned for her in the primaries.

Against the backdrop of the unexplained contradictions about how the de Blasio administration first reportedly made it difficult for the Sanders campaign to obtain the rally permit approval and the relative ease with which Mayor de Blasio offered to change the rally permit date, America Rising PAC filed a FOIL request, seeking records of communication between the Mayor's office and the Department of Parks and Recreation.

After initially refusing to produce any records, America Rising PAC appealed the nonresponse, to which the de Blasio administration produced 11 pages of redacted documents that were comprised of media requests that had sought information about the Sanders rally or the rally permit application process. Amongst the press inquiries included in the partial FOIL response was a media request made by Progress Queens.

The media request made by Progress Queens showed that the e-mail sent by the publisher of Progress Queens was forwarded with a redacted note by Natalie Grybauskas, a City Hall press officer for citywide events, to, amongst others, Karen Hinton, who was, at that time then, Mayor de Blasio's chief spokesperson. That forwarded e-mail was forwarded further still to other, redacted recipients.

As noted in an editorial published by Progress Queens, requests made by Progress Queens at that time then for interviews with city officials were not answered.

The redacted FOIL response made by the City of New York to America Rising PAC do not put to rest any questions about possible political motivations that may have played a part in the initial difficulty experienced by the Sanders campaign to first obtain the rally permit and the reported ease with which Mayor de Blasio offered to change the date of the rally permit.

Instead, the heavily-redacted nature of the FOIL response, and the relatively meaningless information the documents provided, only raise more questions about the role of the de Blasio City Hall in managing the Sanders campaign rally permit application process, according to America Rising PAC.

In a posting on the America Rising PAC Web site, GOP officials noted that:

De Blasio has frequently come under fire for lack of transparency, and his office has taken control of public records requests for other agencies (like the Parks Department) that “could ‘reflect directly on the mayor.’”

A request for an interview made by Progress Queens on Monday to the City Hall press office about the America Rising PAC FOIL response was not answered.

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