Tribune Goes After Rahm Emanuel’s Emails

     CHICAGO (CN) – Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel faces a lawsuit from the Chicago Tribune over the tight lid on public records concerning the city’s red-light cameras.
     Emanuel promised during both of his campaigns to have “the most open, accountable and transparent government that the city of Chicago has ever seen,” but the Tribune says the Democrat has repeatedly stonewalled press access.
     The Tribune notes that its extensive reporting on Chicago’s red-light camera program has so far uncovered a $2 billion bribery scheme involving the original vendor, Redflex Traffic Systems Inc., and former city official John Bills.
     It has also shown the cameras to be ineffective in increasing safety and that the city’s light timers don’t function as they should, according to the complaint.
     The newspaper sued Emanuel and his office Thursday for access to a series of emails and other communication between the mayor and key private adviser, Michael Sacks, involving the red-light cameras.
     Sacks is a hedge-fund CEO whom Emanuel appointed as vice-chairman of the city’s economic development agency World Business Chicago.
     Emanuel’s office characterized the emails with Sacks as private in denying the Tribune’s request, and it refused to produce any emails from Emanuel’s government account because it was “unduly burdensome,” according to the complaint.
     According to an email log that Emanuel’s office produced, the mayor sent only 139 emails over a two-month period, and that just 64 of these were substantive in any way, “a number that appears surprisingly low, if the mayor is using these official accounts as his only mode of electronic communication,” the complaint states.
     The Tribune says its requests under the Freedom of Information Act “have been met with a pattern of non-compliance, partial compliance, delay and obfuscation” under Emanuel’s watch.
     “Contributing to a lack of transparency is the use of personal email accounts and phone lines, rather than government-issued phones and accounts, in conducting government business, which, on information and belief, Mayor Emanuel does,” the complaint states.
     The Tribune adds that “permitting government officials to end run FOIA by conducting official business through ‘private’ accounts is fundamentally contrary to the public policies enunciated by FOIA,” and those emails are still subject to the law.
     Emanuel responded to the lawsuit during an appearance on WTTW’s “Chicago Tonight.”
     “I have a practice that my political and personal stays on my private email, and city business is on the government, and that’s the way I operate,” the mayor said.
     “You keep the work and kind of political stuff separate,” he added.
     Emanuel also said his office always complies with FOIA requests.
     Tribune Editor Gerould Kern said in a statement that “we are seeking the release of public records on matters of great interest to citizens, but the city refuses to divulge them.”
     The newspaper is represented by Dentons US and its in-house counsel Karen Flax.

%d bloggers like this: