By LOUIS FLORES
New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito (D-Spanish Harlem) appears to be avoiding concerns about the order given by Mayor Bill de Blasio (D-New York City) to have his staff execute an impromptu round of confidentiality agreements.
The press office for New York City Council did not answer advance questions submitted by Progress Queens seeking to know whether Council Speaker Mark-Viverito was worried that the new confidentiality agreements would interfere with City Council testimony given by administration officials.
During City Council hearings, administration officials are usually called to testify about the conduct of the City’s business. Additionally, the City Council has oversight and budgetary powers over City agencies. City Council testimony can play a crucial role in providing information that City Councilmembers must consider before legislating policy affecting City agencies, City employees, and citizens.
Since Council Speaker Mark-Viverito was selected to head the municipal legislature in large part due to the support she received from Mayor de Blasio, she has remained a key ally of the mayor, and she has not tolerated criticism of the mayor’s administration from whistleblowers.
In 2014, Council Speaker Mark-Viverito reportedly fired a City Council employee, Artyom Matusov, after he dared to publicly challenge the veracity of City Council testimony provided by New York Police Department Commissioner William Bratton about the police use of force.
Despite questions about the police use of force, Council Speaker Mark-Viverito championed a controversial increase in the headcount at the NYPD in 2015. In the time since, it has been revealed that the NYPD has been the subject of a long-term, wide-waging Federal corruption investigation. Advocates for police reform have complained that misinformation about police misconduct may have thwarted effective oversight that could have reigned in misconduct and corruption at the NYPD.
The de Blasio administration’s makeshift rollout of the confidentiality agreements were revealed in a report published by Gothamist. The report noted that City employees are already routinely asked to execute confidentiality agreements when they commence and end City employment, possibly rendering as redundant the impromptu round of confidentiality agreements that City Hall began to circulate for execution last week.
Mayor de Blasio has been under fire in recent months, ever since news reports have been published noting Federal law enforcement interest in his campaign activities that later included news reports that official activities may also be the subject of Federal investigation. On 19 February, Progress Queens published the first report noting that, according to information received by Progress Queens, there was Federal law enforcement interest in the activities of Mayor de Blasio’s nonprofit lobbying arm, the Campaign for One New York.
As a consequence of the negative press reports questioning the integrity of Mayor de Blasio’s campaign finance and official activities, paranoia has set in, according to the Gothamist report. A source recounted to Gothamist a statement made by Mayor de Blasio that indicated that a belief has taken root within the administration that “the media will never be on our side.”
Separately, during an interview with radio show host Curtis Sliwa, Norman Siegel, an attorney in private practice and the former executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, said that Mayor de Blasio’s use of impromptu confidentiality agreements “smacks of a cover-up, maybe even obstruction,” adding of Mayor de Blasio’s ability to govern, “His administration is melting, in my opinion.”