Friday, December 21, 2007
Michael R. Blood, HuffingtonPost.com: When a mayor of New York leaves office, little goes out the door but memories _ unless he's Rudy Giuliani. Government rules discourage the city's most powerful officeholder from departing with more than token gifts collected on the job.
Ed Koch, mayor from 1978 to 1989, recalls keeping some neckties. His successor, David Dinkins, walked away with knickknacks from his desk, including a crystal tennis ball and a collection of photographs documenting his meetings with celebrities and business icons.
When Giuliani stepped down, he needed a warehouse.
Under an unprecedented agreement that didn't become public until after he left office, Giuliani secreted out of City Hall the written, photographic and electronic record of his eight years in office - more than 2,000 boxes.
Along with his own files, the trove included the official records of Giuliani's deputy mayors, his chief of staff, his travel office and Gracie Mansion - the mayor's residence that became a legal battlefront during his caustic divorce.
The mayor made famous - and very wealthy - in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks has long described his City Hall as an open book.
In a Republican presidential candidates' debate last week, Giuliani asserted: "My government in New York City was so transparent that they knew every single thing I did almost every time I did it. ... I can't think of a public figure that's had a more transparent life than I've had."
But the public record, as reviewed by The Associated Press, shows a City Hall that had a reputation of resistance - even hostility - toward open government, the First Amendment and the public's access to simple facts and figures.
"He ran a government as closed as he could make it," said attorney Floyd Abrams, a widely recognized First Amendment authority who faced off against city lawyers when Giuliani sought to shut the Brooklyn Museum of Art because the mayor considered a painting sacrilegious.
Giuliani's decision to commandeer his historical records in late 2001, as he prepared to leave office, was just one of many episodes during his term, both in and out of the courtroom, that demonstrate his efforts to control, withhold or massage information to advance his agenda and hobble critics. (See the litany of abuses here.)