Letter From Former Jeanne Young, President, NAGARA
Regarding the Giuliani Papers
March 7, 2002
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg
New York, NY 10007
Dear Mayor Bloomberg:
I am writing on behalf of the National Association of Government Archives and
Records Administrators (NAGARA) with reference to the disposition of Rudolph
Giuliani's mayoral records. NAGARA is a professional association of archivists
and records administrators from federal, state, and local government. The
association provides a forum for government archives and records professionals to
share information and work cooperatively to solve problems. In addition to
developing and advocating professional standards, it works to foster awareness of
the value of government archives and records programs and to represent that
community on important issues.
We object strenuously to former Mayor Giuliani's decision to deposit city records
created during his administration in a private repository and not with the New
York City Department of Records and Information Services. One unique feature of
official public records is their value as evidence in court, so long as they
remain in the continuous custody of an appropriate governmental agency. In the
case of New York City, records retain their official evidential value when they
are transferred from a city agency to the city archives. Intermediate transfer
out of city custody, no matter how temporary, destroys the integrity and
trustworthiness of the public record.
We live in extraordinary times, under constant threat of terrorist activity.
Your city knows first-hand the damage that can take place without warning.
Americans are becoming used to taking added precautions to increase public safety
and thwart those from outside our nation who would do us harm. Most of us comply
willingly with increased security requirements such as mail screening in
government offices or increased scrutiny in airports. We must be wary of some
restrictions on our rights and interests as citizens, however, even though they
are employed under the guise of public safety.
None of the public officials above has claimed that the records are being
withheld, destroyed, or misappropriated for national security purposes. In each
case, an individual elected to public office, who has sworn to uphold the law,
has taken an action to subvert the law by withholding public records from the
citizens of his jurisdiction, be it nation, state, or city. These actions do
nothing to increase citizen confidence in the motives of our leaders and much to
undermine the principles we have gone to war repeatedly to defend, chief among
them representative government, freely elected by a universally enfranchised
citizenship to whom the elected officials are accountable.
We urge you to reverse Mr. Giuliani's order removing the records from city
custody and have the records returned to their rightful custodian, the Department
of Records and Information Services. According to Mr. Giuliani's spokesperson,
the former mayor's intent is to make the records available more rapidly than the
city archives could. If that is true, the foundation could finance temporary
assistance to process the records under the direction of the staff at the
Department of Records and Information Services.