Tribune Wants Answers on School Probe

     CHICAGO (CN) – The Chicago Tribune sued the city for information it censored from 25 emails from Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s office involving the Chicago schools CEO who resigned during a federal investigation of a $20.5 million no-bid contract.
     Tribune reporter Bill Ruthhart wants to see the information from 25 email chains involving a contract between Chicago Public Schools and the SUPES Academy.
     The new head of Chicago schools suspended the $20.5 contract after schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett resigned in late May, but the public schools already had spent $12.4 million of the money, the Tribune reported. Byrd-Bennett worked for SUPES before she became head of the public schools.
     The SUPES Academy trains school administrators and teachers, as part of a nationwide program. After the investigation was announced in Chicago, the national School Superintendents Association said it would end its association with the SUPES Academy, whose program had been run jointly.
     The Tribune says in its lawsuit that in response to Ruthhart’s FOIA request, the city sent the reporter 19 of the 25 emails he’d requested, with redactions that made it “impossible to identify where text has been redacted, how much text had been redacted … and whether any text has been redacted at all.” The city refused to release any parts of the other six emails, which Ruthhart identified from an email log.
     The city claimed the censored portions contained private email addresses, phone numbers and personal information involving family life, plans or health.
     But the Tribune claims that “given the parties to the e-mails, the subject lines of those e-mails, and the context, it is highly unlikely” that that is the case.
     The city claimed the six emails were not public records because they “did not bear on the transaction of business of the public body.”
     Again, the Tribune doubts it, saying they were from the “Chief of Staff of Education communicating in her official capacity via her government e-mail account with outside vendors or private funders of CPS.”
     Chicago Public Schools are facing a $1 billion budget deficit.
     Mayor Emanuel told WBEZ-TV that “his office was not involved in the awarding of the SUPES contract,” though the Tribune claims it uncovered at least one document in which officials in the SUPES Academy boasted of their influence in the mayor’s office.
     “It is crucial to the Tribune’s mission that it receive timely information regarding the operations of government to keep the public apprised of developments and concerns,” the Tribune says in its complaint.
     The newspaper seeks all 25 emails it requested with redactions of only personal information.
     Its lead counsel is Daniel Feeney with Miller Shakman & Beem.

%d bloggers like this: