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NEW YORK TIMES - March 15, 2003

Despite Cuts, City Recordkeeper Can Do Job, Audit Finds
By JONATHAN P. HICKS

An audit released yesterday by City Comptroller William C. Thompson Jr. said that staffing levels in the city's Department of Records and Information Services had been cut sharply in the last decade, although it said the department was still able to manage and safeguard the city's records adequately.

Normally, the city's records and historical archives attract little attention. But the Records Department has been in the spotlight since former Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani sent his papers to a warehouse in Queens to be privately archived. That move led to a debate on whether any mayor should be allowed to turn over papers from his administration to a private company.

The report by the comptroller says that many of those papers, once catalogued, began to be turned over earlier this year to the municipal archives division of the department.

Aides to Mr. Giuliani have said that the private transfer of the public papers, through a nonprofit center controlled by Mr. Giuliani, was intended to produce swifter processing and give the public speedier access to the material than the years it typically takes to catalog mayoral documents. They argued that the city was still
working on archiving the papers from the administration of David N. Dinkins, which ended in 1993.

In the report, Mr. Thompson's office took no position on the transfer of the Giuliani administration's papers to a private company. But it did describe that action as "an unprecedented one and is clearly a means by which the Giuliani Center was able to circumvent established protocols and take exclusive control of the Giuliani
papers."

The comptroller's audit states that the number of workers in the records agency dropped 47 percent, to 55 workers, in the fiscal year that ended in June 2001, from 104 employees 10 fiscal years earlier. In that same period, the department's budget decreased by 7 percent, to $4.2 million, the report states.

The report also states that the comptroller's office found limited storage capacity in the buildings where city records were warehoused. And it said that the department's site in Brooklyn suffered from "some environmental and security concerns that could pose a threat to records stored there."

Earlier this week, the City Council passed a measure compelling mayors, including Michael R. Bloomberg, to keep public records in the public domain. Officials in the Bloomberg administration said the mayor was likely to sign that bill.

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