It was a series of escalating attacks over ethics, corruption and trash collection.
About halfway through the debate, Maya Wiley, a former counsel to Mayor Bill de Blasio, was asked by a moderator about her role in the “agents of the city” controversy, when she argued unsuccessfully in 2016 that Mr. de Blasio’s emails with outside advisers should be private.
Ms. Wiley said that she had performed the role of a lawyer advising her client but that her client, Mr. de Blasio, made his own decisions. Then, she vowed, as she has before, that her administration would be more transparent than her former boss’s.
Scott M. Stringer, the city comptroller, pounced, saying that Ms. Wiley had been involved in covering up corruption in Mr. de Blasio’s administration and shielding records from public view.
“The redaction and the cover-up was probably worse than the potential crime,” he said.
Ms. Wiley sought to deflect the criticism by accusing Mr. Stringer of corruption, criticizing him for releasing an audit this week targeting the emergency food program established by Kathryn Garcia.
Mr. Stringer and his office have said that their audit began last July, a claim he repeated tonight. He did not explain why his report was not released until two weeks before the primary, at a time when Ms. Garcia’s campaign has gained steam and Mr. Stringer’s has stumbled.
That brought Ms. Garcia, who had largely stayed out of the sparring in previous debates, into the fray.
“If you started the audit in July and you just released it now,” she scoffed, “there’s no politics involved?”
The discussion of audits prompted the debate moderators to ask Ms. Garcia about her record as sanitation commissioner, which has come under increasing scrutiny as she has emerged as a leading contender.
When asked about a state report that found that the sanitation department had not kept city street’s consistently cleans, she dismissed it.
“As I have said consistently, the Department of Sanitation has made the city cleaner under my watch,” Ms. Garcia said.