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Chicago Tribune Sues Emanuel For Pulling A Hillary With His Emails

By aaroncynic in News on Sep 25, 2015 5:05PM

Tribune Tower (Photo by Chris Wilson via Flickr)

For the second time this year, the Chicago Tribune is suing Mayor Rahm Emanuel over his email use. The paper filed the lawsuit in the Cook County Circuit Court Thursday around noon, alleging the mayor violated open records laws by refusing to release emails and text messages about city business conducted in private emails and text messages.

In the lawsuit, the Tribune says its Freedom of Information Act requests directed at the Mayor’s Office “have been met with a pattern of non-compliance, partial compliance, delay and obfuscation.” The suit also alleges that Emanuel may have violated the Illinois Local Records Act by failing to preserve public records such as emails, text messages and “other forms of electronic communication.”

Tribune Editor Gerould Kern said in a statement:

“We are seeking the release of public records on matters of great interest to citizens, but the city refuses to divulge them. Regrettably, the city's denial is part of a pattern of resistance to releasing public documents covered by the Illinois Freedom of Information Act. We are compelled, therefore, to go to court for the second time in three months to force the city's compliance.”

The suit cites several instances of Emanuel either dragging his feet—or failing to respond at all—to requests for communications. The Tribune asked for communication related to the much-maligned red light camera program, Emanuel’s relationship with Michael Sacks, and its suit over email chains regarding the multi-million dollar no-bid CPS contract that sparked the resignation of former CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett.

Emanuel has argued that communications over private cell phones and email accounts are not subject to FOIA, but the Tribune says the mayor’s response is
“contrary to law” and ignores the FOIA’s definition of what is public record. In its piece describing the suit, the Tribune compares Emanuel to Hillary Clinton and former University of Illinois Chancellor Phyllis Wise, saying:

“At worst, experts warn that using personal devices represents an effort to skirt both the letter and spirit of open records laws, which aim to inform the public and give citizens a way to probe their government — even when government might not appreciate the scrutiny.”

The suit demands the Mayor’s office release what records it has, declare that the deletion of any records was in violation of the Illinois Local Records Act, and enjoin the Mayor and his office from deleting or otherwise failing to preserve future communications.

In a statement to ABC7, Emanuel spokesperson Kelly Quinn said “Mayor Emanuel believes that transparency in government is essential to good government and it is the administration's practice to fully comply to information requests to the letter.”