Tribune Sues City Over Refusal To Release Emails On CPS Contract

By aaroncynic in News on Jun 25, 2015 2:15PM


The Chicago Tribune is accusing the City of Chicago of withholding email records the news outlet believes it is owed under Freedom of Information law.

The newspaper filed a lawsuit against the city Wednesday in a dispute with Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s office over a request for emails related to a controversial public schools contract currently under federal investigation.

According to a complaint filed in the Circuit Court of Cook County, the City violated Freedom of Information Act requests by the Tribune, which is seeking 25 email chains reporters say could be related to the multimillion dollar, no-bid CPS contract under federal investigation that sparked the resignation of former schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett.

The lawsuit alleges that city officials dragged their feet on multiple FOIA requests by Tribune reporter Bill Ruthhart and only released redacted versions of 19 out of the 25 emails requested. The redactions were also made in white, making it unclear exactly how much content was redacted, and no reasons for each redaction were given.

City officials maintain that they are in full compliance with the law. A letter to Ruthhart from Freedom of Information Officer Chloe Rasmas said that the redactions made contained personal information that doesn’t apply to FOIA law and that the emails withheld “did not bear on the transaction of the business of the public body” and were therefore not public record. A spokesperson from the Law Department told the Tribune “The city produced all requested, nonexempt records in response to the Tribune's FOIA request in full compliance with the law.”

This isn’t the first time Emanuel has taken heat for blocking FOIA requests. Just days before clinching a second term after a contentious runoff election, Emanuel was roundly criticized for blocking some 1,500 emails requested by the International Business Times between him and top donor Michael Sacks.