NYC Mayor Adams’ new engagement form system subject to transparency laws: Council official

NEW YORK — The City Council’s top tech official alerted Mayor Eric Adams this week that his administration must by law publicly release all information gathered as part of his controversial new “engagement form” system, which requires local elected officials to ask for permission before speaking with senior city officials about various issues.

In a Monday letter to the mayor, Brooklyn Councilwoman Jennifer Gutiérrez, who chairs the chamber’s Technology Committee, wrote that the new engagement format is covered by the city’s Open Data Law.

The 2012 law mandates that most municipal government data stored in backend servers be regularly released to the public — and Gutiérrez told the mayor that requests submitted due to his new communication policy fit the bill.

“The data collected from your new engagement form, as well as the determinations reached by your office on which elected officials the Mayor’s office will permit agency officials to engage and meet with, must be made public to be in compliance with the law,” Gutiérrez wrote in the letter, a copy of which was exclusively obtained by the Daily News.

“New Yorkers expect their government to expeditiously and fully comply with city law, and we expect your administration and office to meet this requirement.”

Gutiérrez also asked that the mayor publicly commit to regularly disclosing data captured by the new engagement system.

Spokespeople for the mayor did not immediately return requests for comment Tuesday.

Under Adams’ engagement policy, Council members, state lawmakers and other local elected officials seeking to speak with commissioners or executive staffers at city agencies must fill out a form on a new City Hall webpage. The form requires officials to provide specifics about who they want to speak to and why.

The mayor has defended the policy, saying it helps his administration utilize city resources smartly.

“I need to make sure that my commissioners are being coordinated correctly,” he said April 10. “Those electeds who are saying, ‘Well, we don’t want to do that’ … Then you have disorder. I don’t want to have disorder.”

According to an email reviewed by The News, interactions requiring a request include all in-person meetings with commissioners, executive directors and senior agency staff as well as discussions about “enforcement” or issues “outside the scope of daily operations.”

The policy has drawn intense ire from City Council members and other local officials, who say it’s counterproductive and hinders them from performing a key component of their jobs. City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams even instructed her members to flat-out defy the policy and continue communicating with agency officials as usual.

Many Council members have commissioners’ cellphones and talk to them directly about everything from sanitation issues in their districts to electrical outages.

Gutiérrez’s committee plans to hold a hearing on the new engagement system Wednesday, where administration officials are expected to face questions about its implementation.