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City Hall Admits Improperly Recording Tribune Reporters

By Samantha Abernethy in News on Nov 12, 2012 10:40PM

City Hall officials admitted to recording phone conversations with Chicago Tribune reporters without their consent, a felony offense.

The city's corporation counsel told the Tribune, "This failure was due to inadvertence — not some practice or plan to record interviews without consent."

Mayor Rahm Emanuel told reporters today that the recording allegations were "much ado about nothing." While Emanuel communications director Sarah Hamilton said they have a policy of recording sensitive media interviews, she says she always informs reporters when recording on the phone.

The Tribune cited two incidents in which the discovered the city had recorded conversations without consent. In a recent deposition, Chicago police Superintendent Garry McCarthy cited an October 2011 recording of a conference call with two Tribune reporters. The plaintiff of the wrongful death suit pointed out the transcript showed no evidence of consent.

More recently, a city spokesperson referenced a recording the city had when trying to dispute the accuracy of a Tribune reporter's quote.

The Tribune writes:

In September, two city spokespeople acknowledged that they recorded Tribune reporter David Kidwell's phone interviews with Scott Kubly, Chicago's managing deputy commissioner of transportation, without Kidwell's consent.

After the story about the city's speed camera initiative was published on Sept. 11, Kidwell received a voice mail message from city spokesman Peter Scales disputing the accuracy of a Kubly quote, and saying he had a recording of the conversation.

Kidwell then called Kathleen Strand, a spokeswoman involved in the earlier Kubly interview, and she acknowledged recording that conversation as well.

Kidwell said he was not asked for his consent to record either interview.

Hoping to set the record straight regarding the disputed quote, Kidwell requested a copy of the tape from Strand.

"Kathleen calls me back about a half-hour later and says that portion of the tape had been inadvertently erased — it was gone," Kidwell said Friday.

Kidwell said he did not record either interview.

Watch video of Emanuel's comments below.

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