NYC comptroller takes City Hall to court over internal COVID-19 documents

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City Comptroller Scott Stringer. (Photo by Mark Hallum)

As New York City enters its second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, Comptroller Scott Stringer says he’s still looking for answers concerning the first one. 

Stringer, a 2021 mayoral candidate, claims Mayor Bill de Blasio and City Hall consistently stalled his office’s requests for information about the city’s preparation and response to the pandemic. To get the information he wants, Stringer filed a petition in New York County Supreme Court on Wednesday, Nov. 18, seeking a court order to pressure City Hall to comply with his requests. 

“New Yorkers deserve answers about what our City knew about the virus, when we knew it, and what we did about it,” Stringer said. “But instead of timely providing documents and being fully transparent, City Hall has continually delayed disclosures and thwarted the truth.”

The comptroller initially launched an investigation into the city’s preparedness and response to the pandemic in May. By June, Stringer’s office subpoenaed City Hall for documents pertaining to COVID-19 in the five boroughs.

Coordinating with the New York City Law Department, which represents the city and its agencies, the comptroller set an initial deadline to turn over the documents for July 31. While the Law Department did give Stringer 124 documents pertaining to his investigation before the July 31 deadline, the comptroller claimed the documents came no where near the full scope of the subpoena. 

Thus began a long thread of missed and extended deadlines set by both the comptroller and the Law Department itself, the petition claims. Most recently, the earliest the city said it could produce a portion of the documents would be April 2021. 

In the petition filed Wednesday, Stringer requested the city turn over all documents by Dec. 31, 2020. 

“As we stare down a potential second wave, the investigation has only become more vital,” Stringer said. “With every delay, every obstruction, and every attempt to escape oversight, the City is denying New Yorkers the open and honest government they deserve.”

The mayor’s office did not respond to a request for comment before press time. 

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