NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Mayor Bill de Blasio on Tuesday defended using an outside public relations firm with business before the city to write news releases and other correspondence.
As CBS2 Political Reporter Marcia Kramer reported, de Blasio said the practice is “normal.” But others called it “unheard of.”
De Blasio has a large press and communications staff – with several staffers pulling down handsome six-figure salaries. But according to recently-released emails, de Blasio used an outside public relations firm that represents real estate and other ghostwriting inquiries. The firm also crafts letters for mayoral initiatives such as universal pre-K and a bid to get the Democratic National Convention.
Kramer asked the mayor Tuesday about the use of the outside firm.
Kramer: “I wonder, you know, how you could allow them to create, in a sense, a shadow government, and that you allow them to effectively run parts of the city when they’re not on the city payroll.”
De Blasio: “Marcia, it’s not, even close to that. And I think those – that phrase is honestly ridiculous. There’s nothing about that that is out of the ordinary. Everyone who holds high office has advisors, and they offer advice. Again, I make the decisions.”
Kramer: “But suggesting quotes and saying that you’re purported to say specific things writing press releases?”
De Blasio: “Marcia, I’m glad you find it so interesting. It’s absolutely normal.”
But several political experts who spoke to Kramer said the practice was “pretty unheard of” to have an outside public relations firm do the work of an in-house press team, write releases, and make up quotes of what other elected officials should say about city initiatives.
De Blasio’s actions, they claimed, are not something that other elected officials — in and out of office – did not and do not do.
There are also questions about the propriety of seeking advice from a firm, BerlinRosen, that represents clients with city business.
“The optics are really terrible. It’s not necessarily illegal, but it smells,” said Doug Muzzio of Baruch College. “There is, at least an appearance of potential impropriety.”
The mayor is in a tug of war with news organizations over the release of his entire email correspondence with about half a dozen outside consultants. De Blasio said he does not have to release the emails because they are so-called “agents of the city.”
The matter is now in court.