“I am a woman who stands on my own two feet,” said Wiley at the first mayoral forum last fall – a point she repeated throughout the campaign when asked about her connection with de Blasio.
Wiley, a former US assistant attorney who worked as a civil rights attorney for years and was a legal analyst for MSNBC, tends to be reluctant when reporters focus on their work in the de Blasio administration.
“You know, I don’t think I’m the only woman in New York City who keeps wondering why we’re being asked to answer a man we worked for,” she said on a campaign freeze on Saturday. “All I can say is that I’m really grateful that I had the opportunity to serve the City of New York, grateful to be the first black woman to advise the Mayor of New York City . “
But her time at town hall is the most relevant experience she has had for the position she is currently seeking – and she has received mixed reviews from former colleagues in the de Blasio administration.
Wiley was hired for the lawyer position shortly after de Blasio took office in 2014 and left in the summer of 2016 to become head of the Civilian Complaint Review Board.
Former colleagues interviewed by POLITICO who asked for anonymity to speak freely about their former colleague call her everything from committed and principled to ineffective and misguided. While saying she shared the same left-wing views then as now, some have criticized Wiley for failing to implement her progressive ideals when she had the opportunity to do so as an advisor to the mayor.
Wiley touts her success in expanding broadband internet access and increasing contracts for minority and women-owned companies, but both efforts stalled. She was the mayor’s advisor when he pursued risky fundraising practices that resulted in multiple investigations, but no charges were brought. Wiley also drafted the legal strategy and became the public face of the mayor’s failed efforts to keep his emails with advisors safe from public scrutiny.
In the final pre-election debate last week, she was attacked by a rival while trying to work on expanding broadband access, her signature project, at City Hall.
Ray McGuire, a former Wall Street executive, called universal high-speed internet something Wiley “made promises it didn’t deliver.”
“One and a half million New Yorkers don’t have broadband on their watch,” he said at the debate sponsored by POLITICO, WNBC and Telemundo 47.
“Not under my supervision, Ray – this is a falsehood and it has to be disclosed,” Wiley shot back.
Wiley recently said delays in expanding broadband reported from The Cityhappened after she left the administration. She says she takes pride in the fact that free internet has been installed in every apartment in the Queensbridge Houses in NYCHA. Two other developments that should have universal broadband, the Red Hook and the Mott Haven House, are still there did not receive the servicestressed McGuire.
“I left town council five years ago, very grateful that I had the opportunity,” said Wiley, quoting her work a lawsuit against Verizon because it was not possible to install high-speed internet in all parts of the city.
Wiley has touted her credentials on police reform, but a former town hall employee said she is not a strong voice in the administration on major legal controversies surrounding the police.
“She was not considered a serious lawyer,” said the employee. “The consensus was often that it got us into a lot of legal problems.”
The de Blasio administration, acting on the advice of the Legal Department – a separate unit of the mayor’s office – suspended the publication of many police disciplinary records that had been routinely published for years, citing a state law known as 50-a was. The law was finally repealed last year when police reform was called for following the assassination of George Floyd.
Wiley did not oppose this approach and is not an effective antithesis to the more conservative legal tendencies of then management consultant Zachary Carter, the employee said.
“I thought it was so horrible, she could have gone to the mayor and said, ‘The legal department is screwing this up, there’s something going on here.’ But she didn’t, “said the person. She also did not aggressively urge the NYPD to take disciplinary action against Daniel Pantaleo, the officer who killed Eric Garner, which the City Legal Department found was not possible while a state investigation was pending.
“Everyone around her likes her and ideologically agreed with her on a lot of things, but there was never much weight,” the person said. “She either didn’t care enough, or didn’t know how to raise the internal organization needed to change the mayor’s mind, or she couldn’t win the argument against Zach.”
A former senior administration official also said Wiley signed the decision not to fire Pantaleo.
Wiley said she disapproved of the mayor’s handling of 50-a and the Pantaleo case, but declined to detail what she was doing from her attorney’s job to resolve the issues, citing legal confidentiality.
When asked to respond to the criticisms on Saturday, Wiley said she was proud of the work she had done while with the mayor.
“Look, there are so many good things that have happened in this government while I was there, like paid family vacations … IDNYC – which was a real turning point not only for New Yorkers but also for our undocumented community – and the reality is that I … left five years ago and continues to volunteer for the government and the people of New York, ”she told POLITICO.
“I cannot speak for other people’s views or opinions,” she added. “I can say that I am running for mayor standing up against the bureaucracy, the developers and the NYPD so that we can truly serve the needs of all of our people and that all of our people are not only safe but also able to protect it afford to live in this city. ”
Karen Hinton, a former de Blasio press secretary, whose tenure coincided with Wiley’s, said the lawyer had stood up against the mayor many times – even when her advice ultimately went unheeded.
“She was a firm believer in what she thought the mayor should do, what the city should do, and she wasn’t afraid to contradict the mayor or differ with the mayor,” said Hinton, who is in the closing stages volunteers for Wiley’s campaign.
“I remember she was very eloquent and direct with him. She wasn’t afraid of him. She didn’t hesitate to speak up, and if they disagreed, they disagreed, ”Hinton said. “At one point she was a little frustrated that he often didn’t listen to her, so I think she decided to join in.”
In fact, Wiley has raised her decision to leave the post frequently.
“I quit five years ago. I voted with my feet in 2016, ”she said at a NY1 debate. “I take pride in the ability to get free broadband in every apartment in Queensbridge Houses. I am proud to have helped pass the first Sanctuary City bill in this city that helped protect undocumented immigrants from ICE. I am proud that we got women’s and minority corporate deals of $ 500 million and above when I got a title with no resources and no staff. “
Her lack of direct responsibility for city authorities hampered her ability to get things done, a former city hall employee said, saying she didn’t move the needle much in expanding broadband or MWBE involvement.
“I can’t say my impression of her was that she was so effective at managing projects, mostly because I didn’t see a lot of results from her. She talked about things and had good ideas, but it never felt like she had any other plan to implement those ideas than talking about them, ”said the former employee.
“There’s no question that Maya was very smart. A lot of people held her up very high, including me, ”the person said. “But it wasn’t like I was overwhelmed by their ability to really make changes within the government. … You are fighting against a big city bureaucracy that wants to do things that way [they] are ready. But that also applies if you are mayor. “
Wiley’s biggest public stumble at City Hall came when she stated that a group of de Blasio personal advisers should have exempted their communications from the public information laws because they were considered “agents of the city”.
The term was widely ridiculed and thousands of pages of email were eventually released after the city lost a lawsuit with NY1 and the New York Post. “Everyone was stunned,” said a former employee, describing the internal reaction when Wiley coined the term publicly.
As the mayor’s in-house attorney, Wiley also played a role in advising on fundraising practices, despite her has retained Your instructions were not always followed. The mayor’s solicitation for a nonprofit called Campaign for One New York has been scrutinized. A federal investigation resulted in no charges, but prosecutors did publicly said that de Blasio intervened on behalf of donors who asked the city for favors.
Other former employees praised Wiley’s management skills.
“The people on her team were very loyal to her. She was very focused on bringing in talent from different perspectives and backgrounds. She really cultivated these people, ”said a former employee.
“She approaches things like a lawyer. She wants to know both sides of an argument, ”said the person. “She can make a decision quickly.”