New York Public Advocate Settles Suit Seeking Fine Data

New York Public Advocate Bill de Blasio settled a lawsuit he filed against Mayor Michael Bloomberg last year seeking information on fines after city agencies responded to his request, according to a court filing.

De Blasio sued Bloomberg in July in New York State Supreme Court in Manhattan, saying that complaints by small-business owners show the city is seeking to boost revenue by increasing enforcement of regulations.

The city had failed to provide information requested by the public advocate in May on fines, which doubled to about $800 million in 2011 from about $400 million in 2002, de Blasio said in the petition.

All six agencies listed in de Blasio’s petition provided “full responses” in August to his requests for information about violations issued and fines collected in the fiscal years 2002 to 2012, according to a stipulation dated Dec. 21.

“It’s a disgrace it took a lawsuit to pry this information loose from City Hall,” de Blasio said in a statement. “Small businesses are hurting, and they deserve to know the truth about the fines they have faced under this mayor. City Hall was wrong to stand in the way, and it’s only right for the administration to pay for the costs of releasing this data.”

Justice Carol E. Huff allowed the petition to be withdrawn and dismissed the suit in a ruling dated Jan. 14 and posted yesterday. The filing didn’t give any details on the information that was provided. The city agreed to pay $13,000 in legal fees in the case.

‘Significant Amount’

The agencies turned over a “significant amount” of information and de Blasio’s office is in the process of analyzing it with plans to issue a report on the data within weeks, Wiley Norvell, a spokesman for the public advocate, said in a telephone interview.

De Blasio said in the petition that he got so many complaints he had to set up a separate hot line dedicated to small business owners, who said that city agencies were citing and fining them for violations that had never been called to their attention. They also accused the city of imposing fines for low-risk, first-time offenses without asking for them to be corrected.

‘Considerable Effort’

“The requested data was sent months ago,” Gloria Yi, assistant corporation counsel with the general litigation division of the city’s law department, said in a statement. “The request encompassed over a decade of detailed financial data from multiple city agencies and involved considerable effort to compile.”

The mayor is the founder and majority owner of Bloomberg LP, the parent company of Bloomberg News. De Blasio, a possible candidate for mayor this year, finished third in a Nov. 21 Quinnipiac University poll of voters behind City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and former City Comptroller William Thompson in the race for the Democratic nomination.

The mayor’s office said at the time the suit was filed that the city’s restaurants are cleaner, construction sites are safer, the number of fires has come down, and streets are cleaner and safer because of enforcement of regulations and laws.

Fines Increase

Actual fines rose to $859.4 million in 2012 from $478.6 million in 2002, an increase of $380.8 million -- $198.3 million of which is represented by violations from vehicle drivers, or about 54 percent, the mayor’s office said in July.

The increase in motor-vehicle fines came from higher penalties for parking tickets; more revenue from red-light tickets as more cameras were installed; tickets for violations of the city’s bus lanes, which didn’t exist in 2002; and more revenue from traffic court as the state has increased fines for moving violations over the past decade, the mayor’s office said.

The remaining $182.5 million increase can be attributed to enforcement of regulations and laws including building codes and construction violations, fire code violations, and more targeting of illegal tobacco sales, the mayor’s office said.

The case is De Blasio v. Bloomberg, 103374/2012, New York State Supreme Court (Manhattan).

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