Comptroller Stringer sues NYC for not handing over COVID-19 records
City Comptroller Scott Stringer is suing Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration for failing to hand over records related to the mayor’s response to the COVID-19 crisis.
The lawsuit, filed Wednesday in Manhattan Supreme Court, accuses City Hall of failing to comply with a subpoena Stringer issued in June as part of the comptroller’s probe.
“The City’s refusal to timely and fully comply with the Subpoena is impeding and frustrating the Comptroller’s ability to complete the Investigation,” the suit reads.
In May, Stringer — who is running to replace the term-limited de Blasio in 2021 — launched the investigation into the city’s handling of the pandemic, saying he wanted to know “what we knew, when we knew it and what we did about it.”
“This investigation will help New Yorkers understand how strategies were developed to protect public health and to learn from what worked and what didn’t to improve future emergency response efforts,” Stringer said at a press conference Wednesday outside City Hall.
A recent report from his office estimated that the city has “incurred or committed to $4.95 billion of COVID related spending in [fiscal year] 2020 and [fiscal year] 2021,” the court papers say.
The comptroller — whose office is empowered to investigate all matters relating to or affecting the city’s finances — now wants a judge to force the city to turn over the relevant records by New Year’s Eve.
“They’re slow-walking this. They don’t want us to do our due diligence,” Stringer said. “I really don’t know what they’re hiding. But I’ve had enough.”
The subpoena requested data from five city agencies — the mayor’s office, Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, Emergency Management, fire department and Health + Hospitals — on a rolling basis and set a July 31 deadline for the information.
Marjorie Landa, the deputy comptroller for audit and investigation, said they’re seeking a broad range of documents, including about “medical advice that they’ve seen, prescriptions about how to best protect the citizens, projections about what communities are going to be hurt and suffer from this illness, what kind of equipment is needed.”
The city Law Department made a “small production” of 124 documents “of limited relevance” on July 30, the lawsuit alleges.
Then some 30,000 pages of emails from Emergency Management and the fire department were produced at the end of October — but nothing was from H+H, the health department or the mayor’s office, which Stringer called the “centerpiece of the investigation.”
“We basically have gotten zero documents,” he said.
Stringer says the holdup is interfering with his investigation, including witness interviews that will likely have to be followed up on once the documents are turned over, the suit says.
The Law Department deferred questions to City Hall.
“Sounds like a politician running for mayor, not someone focused on the public health crisis at hand,” said de Blasio spokesman Bill Neidhardt.
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