DNAInfo reported this morning that Michael Bloomberg has a "private way of discussing city business." He and an unnamed deputy mayor both use @bloomberg.net email addresses to prevent their conversation from becoming public documents. A source told Gawker that the second-in-command using this subterfuge is First Deputy Mayor Patti Harris.

In order to protect their source, DNAInfo withheld the identity of the deputy as well as the dates and content of the emails. But Harris has long been described as Bloomberg's confidant and part of his inner circle. A profile in the New York Daily News from 2009 described Harris as co-mayor. "No question about that. ... There's no decision that I don't run by her," Bloomberg said at the time. In 2010, the New York Observer crowned Harris, the former director of government affairs for Bloomberg LP, "Mrs. Mayor," noting that:

...her influence extends well beyond that, as she’s the keeper of the Bloomberg brand, the one who stands at the gates of the ever-expanding Bloomberg empire and decides who gets to come in–and also who has to go.

The tip about Harris came to light during the course of reporting on Bloomberg LP's terminal scandal. At the time, a source with some knowledge of the company told Gawker:

The information flows between Bloomberg's lawyers at Willkie Farr - ie Tom Golden [Thomas H. Golden]- and Deputy Mayor Patti Harris and on to Bloomberg. Harris mainly uses LP email address rather than her City Hall email acct, deliberately keeping LP info off the government email servers.

Golden has previously represented both Harris and Kevin Sheekey, Bloomberg's other close confidant and formerly the Deputy Mayor for Government Affairs who is now back at the Bloomberg mothership. (Mayor Bloomberg paid both their legal fees.) DNAInfo says at least "nine members of the mayor’s inner circle" have an @bloomberg.net email account.

While trying to evade the public record, Mayor Bloomberg has used his position to turn the NYPD into a vast, instrusive spying apparatus.

We also heard it's incredibly common in City Hall to use private email accounts for sensitive topics, be it Gmail, Yahoo, or AOL. The Bloomberg.net account may just be a personal preference of the Mayor's, who has been exposed as using that Bloomberg email to discuss delicate city business before. Daily News columnist Harry Siegel heard the same:

In 2006, the National Council of Arab Americans and an antiwar group called the Answer Coalition filed a federal lawsuit against for denying demonstrators access to the Great Lawn in Central Park during the 2004 Republican National Convention. Court documents included an email that disputed the administration's claims sent from Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe to the Mayor's @bloomberg.net address.

If that's the same email account that DNAInfo is referring to, it's hardly a secret. Everyone from Occupy Wall Street to Johns Hopkins has published that address online.

Another tidbit that came through the transom during the terminal scandal, which we hope is also true: a source told Gawker that the Mayor Bloomberg still communicates with Bloomberg LP execs, editors, and reporters through the code name "Mr. Brown," and that editor-in-chief Matthew Winkler even has a special ringtone for him. None of the past or current Bloomberg LP employees we spoke to were able to corroborate this.

A spokesperson for Bloomberg LP declined to comment on City Hall's use of @bloomberg.net addresses, but said that the Mr. Brown rumor was untrue. In response to request for comment, Marc LaVorgna, Mayor Bloomberg's press secretary, told Gawker we should press DNAInfo directly since the site would not reveal any information. LaVorgna called the Mr. Brown rumor completely false.

To contact the author of this post, please email nitasha@gawker.com.

[Top image via Getty; email screenshot via justiceonline.org]