City Clerk’s Office Fails To Create Lobbying Transparency Database Required By 2013 Law


Michael​ ​McSweeney
The​ ​City​ ​Clerk,​ ​Clerk​ ​of​ ​the​ ​Council Executive​ ​Office
141​ ​Worth​ ​Street,
New​ ​York,​ ​NY​ ​10013

September​ ​27,​ ​2017

Dear​ ​City​ ​Clerk​ ​McSweeney:

Reinvent​ ​Albany,​ ​New​ ​York​ ​Public​ ​Interest​ ​Research​ ​Group​ ​(NYPIRG),​ ​and​ ​Citizens Union​ ​are​ ​civic​ ​groups​ ​that​ ​advocate​ ​for​ ​open​ ​and​ ​transparent​ ​government.​ ​​​We​ ​have long​ ​advocated​ ​for​ ​making​ ​lobbying​ ​activity​ ​more​ ​transparent​ ​in​ ​the​ ​City​ ​of​ ​New​ ​York.

The​ ​City​ ​Council​ ​passed​ ​and​ ​Mayor​ ​Bloomberg​ ​signed​ ​Local​ ​Law​ ​29​ ​on​ ​December​ ​17, 2013​ ​which​ ​required​ ​the​ ​City​ ​Clerk’s​ ​Office​ ​to​ ​make​ ​lobbying​ ​activity​ ​disclosed​ ​in​ ​its existing​ ​database​ ​more​ ​transparent.​​ ​​​​The​ ​expanded​ ​database​ ​was​ ​part​ ​of​ ​broader​ ​reform legislation,​ ​​Int.​ ​No.​ ​1172​ ​of​ ​2013​.​ ​​​That​ ​legislation​ ​was​ ​the​ ​culmination​ ​of​ ​a​ ​two​ ​year review​ ​of​ ​the​ ​lobbying​ ​laws​ ​by​ ​the​ ​New​ ​York​ ​City​ ​Lobbying​ ​Commission,​ ​which​ ​held​ ​7 hearings​ ​between​ ​March​ ​and​ ​September​ ​2011,​ ​and​ ​issued​ ​a​ ​final​ ​report​ ​in​ ​March​ ​2013. NYPIRG​ ​and​ ​Citizens​ ​Union​ ​testified​ ​at​ ​most​ ​of​ ​those​ ​hearings​ ​and​ ​were​ ​very​ ​involved in​ ​shaping​ ​Local​ ​Law​ ​29.

Local​ ​Law​ ​29​ ​requires​ ​the​ ​Clerk’s​ ​existing​ ​lobbying​ ​database​ ​be​ ​modernized​ ​so​ ​it​ ​is

“​searchable​ ​by,​ ​at​ ​a​ ​minimum,​ ​lobbyist​ ​name,​ ​client​ ​name,​ ​person​ ​or agency​ ​before​ ​which​ ​lobbying​ ​activities​ ​took​ ​place,​ ​and​ ​the​ ​local​ ​law​ ​number with​ ​year,​ ​bill​ ​number,​ ​resolution​ ​number,​ ​rule​ ​number,​ ​or​ ​other​ ​information sufficient​ ​to​ ​identify​ ​the​ ​matter​ ​on​ ​which​ ​lobbying​ ​has​ ​occurred.”

The​ ​law​ ​further​ ​required​ ​the​ ​database​ ​be​ ​completed​ ​no​ ​later​ ​than​ ​December​ ​17,​ ​2015.2 One​ ​year​ ​and​ ​eight​ ​months​ ​following​ ​the​ ​statutory​ ​deadline,​ ​and​ ​three​ ​years​ ​and​ ​eight months​ ​following​ ​the​ ​enactment​ ​of​ ​Local​ ​Law​ ​29,​ ​the​ ​database​ ​envisioned​ ​by​ ​the​ ​law has​ ​not​ ​been​ ​established.

Reinvent​ ​Albany​ ​inquired​ ​about​ ​the​ ​status​ ​of​ ​the​ ​database​ ​in​ ​March​ ​2017.​ ​​​It​ ​was​ ​told​ ​it would​ ​be​ ​completed​ ​imminently,​ ​but​ ​the​ ​Clerk’s​ ​Office​ ​declined​ ​to​ ​preview​ ​the​ ​database with​ ​Reinvent​ ​Albany.​ ​​​Six​ ​months​ ​later​ ​it​ ​has​ ​still​ ​not​ ​been​ ​released.

Reinvent​ ​Albany​ ​then​ ​made​ ​a​ ​Freedom​ ​of​ ​Information​ ​Law​ ​(FOIL)​ ​request​ ​for​ ​the underlying​ ​data​ ​in​ ​the​ ​existing​ ​database​ ​in​ ​March​ ​2017.​ ​​​The​ ​FOIL​ ​request​ ​was​ ​denied on​ ​the​ ​grounds​ ​the​ ​Clerk’s​ ​Office​ ​could​ ​not​ ​extract​ ​the​ ​data​ ​in​ ​an​ ​aggregate​ ​manner,​ ​but could​ ​only​ ​provide​ ​individual​ ​lobbyist​ ​or​ ​client​ ​filings.3​ ​​​Reinvent​ ​Albany​ ​appealed​ ​the FOIL​ ​denial​ ​in​ ​April,​ ​offering​ ​to​ ​provide​ ​technical​ ​assistance​ ​in​ ​extracting​ ​the information​ ​and​ ​was​ ​denied​ ​even​ ​though​ ​the​ ​New​ ​York​ ​State​ ​Public​ ​Officers​ ​Law, section​ ​87,​ ​subdivision​ ​5(a)​ ​states,​ ​“An​ ​agency​ ​shall​ ​provide​ ​records​ ​on​ ​the​ ​medium requested​ ​by​ ​a​ ​person,​ ​if​ ​the​ ​agency​ ​can​ ​reasonably​ ​make​ ​such​ ​copy​ ​or​ ​have​ ​such​ ​copy made​ ​by​ ​engaging​ ​an​ ​outside​ ​professional​ ​service…”

Reinvent​ ​Albany,​ ​NYPIRG​ ​and​ ​Citizens​ ​Union​ ​are​ ​disappointed​ ​the​ ​Clerk’s​ ​Office​ ​has yet​ ​to​ ​meet​ ​the​ ​requirements​ ​of​ ​the​ ​law​ ​by​ ​not​ ​creating​ ​the​ ​database​ ​envisioned​ ​in statute​ ​by​ ​the​ ​legal​ ​deadline,​ ​and​ ​has​ ​rebuffed​ ​Reinvent​ ​Albany’s​ ​efforts​ ​to​ ​make​ ​the information​ ​available​ ​through​ ​other​ ​means,​ ​or​ ​solicit​ ​input​ ​from​ ​stakeholders​ ​on​ ​the design​ ​or​ ​operation​ ​of​ ​the​ ​database​ ​it​ ​says​ ​will​ ​be​ ​completed​ ​soon.

We​ ​call​ ​on​ ​the​ ​Clerk’s​ ​Office​ ​to​ ​complete​ ​the​ ​database​ ​as​ ​soon​ ​as​ ​possible​ ​and​ ​to,​ ​at​ ​the very​ ​least,​ ​preview​ ​the​ ​database​ ​with​ ​civic​ ​groups​ ​and​ ​the​ ​regulated​ ​community​ ​before​ ​it is​ ​released.

We​ ​welcome​ ​further​ ​conversation​ ​on​ ​this​ ​issue.​ ​​​Please​ ​contact​ ​Alex​ ​Camarda,​ ​Senior Policy​ ​Consultant​ ​at​ ​Reinvent​ ​Albany​ ​at​ ​​alex [at]​.


Alan​ ​Rothstein

Interim​ ​Executive​ ​Director
Citizens​ ​Union
299​ ​Broadway
Suite​ ​700
New​ ​York,​ ​NY​ ​10007

Blair​ ​Horner/Gene​ ​Russianoff
New​ ​York​ ​Public​ ​Interest​ ​Research​ ​Group​ ​(NYPIRG)
9 Murray St, Lower Level
New York, NY 10007

Alex​ ​Camarda
Senior​ ​Policy​ ​Consultant Reinvent​ ​Albany
148​ ​Lafayette​ ​St.
12th​ ​Floor
New​ ​York,​ ​NY​ ​10013


Melissa​ ​Mark-Viverito
Speaker​ ​of​ ​the​ ​New​ ​York​ ​City​ ​Council
250​ ​Broadway​ ​Suite​ ​1856
New​ ​York,​ ​NY​ ​10007


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