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Letter From Former Jeanne Young, President, NAGARA Regarding the Giuliani Papers

March 7, 2002

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg
City Hall
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.

Sincerely,

Jeanne Young
President

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Defending the archives contract: Saul Cohen, President, Rudy Giuliani Center for Urban Affairs