Release of emails by Chicago mayor doesn’t end ac­cess dis­pute.

Mayor: Mes­sages on pri­vate de­vices are off-lim­its


CHICAGO | Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s de­ci­sion to release thou­sands of pages of pri­vate emails does not end a dis­pute in Illi­nois about pub­lic ac­cess to such emails from him and other of­fi­cials when they deal with gov­ern­ment business.

Mr. Emanuel an­nounced late Wed­nes­day that he had set­tled a law­suit by a gov­ern­ment watch­dog group over emails from his per­sonal ac­counts, but it al­lows him and his per­sonal lawyer to de­cide which emails are pub­lic records and which are not.

It’s not clear what emails were with­held, and the Emanuel ad­min­is­tra­tion said it still dis­putes whether the pri­vate emails were ac­tu­ally pub­lic doc­u­ments.

The watch­dog Bet­ter Gov­ern­ment As­so­ci­a­tion said the group didn’t have the time or money to keep fight­ing its law­suit.

But the Chicago Tri­bune, which filed a sim­i­lar law­suit, said it was not ready to set­tle for the 2,700 pages of emails the mayor’s of­fice re­leased and will press ahead with its le­gal chal­lenge.

“It should not have re­quired ex­tended le­gal ac­tion to pro­tect the pub­lic’s right to this in­for­ma­tion,” said Bruce Dold, the pa­per’s editor and pub­lisher.

The Bet­ter Gov­ern­ment As­so­ci­a­tion sued the mayor in October 2015 to force com­pli­ance with a Freedom of In­for­ma­tion Act request for of­fi­cial emails sent from Emanuel’s pri­vate ac­count.

The Tri­bune had sued a month ear­lier, ask­ing a judge to de­ter­mine whether the mayor’s use of per­sonal email ac­counts to con­duct gov­ern­ment business vi­o­lated Illi­nois’ open records laws.

Mr. Emanuel has ar­gued that emails sent on pri­vate de­vices are au­to­mat­i­cally ex­empt from dis­clo­sure laws, but two Cook County judges have ruled against him. That in­cluded a judge who ear­lier this month or­dered the city and the mayor to pro­duce an in­dex of cer­tain pri­vate ac­count emails and text mes­sages.

The set­tle­ment be­tween the Bet­ter Gov­ern­ment As­so­ci­a­tion and Mr. Emanuel was viewed by some open records ad­vo­cates as a ma­jor vic­tory.

“This makes clear that pub­lic of­fi­cials are go­ing to have to pro­duce the records they may take on pri­vate de­vices,” said Don Craven, Spring­field-based lawyer for the Illi­nois Press As­so­ci­a­tion.

The emails clearly il­lus­trate Mr. Emanuel’s fre­quent at­tempts to en­gage with in­flu­en­tial peo­ple in business, gov­ern­ment and the me­dia — and the ac­cess they had to him on at least one pri­vate email ad­dress.

They in­cluded David Plouffe, a top of­fi­cial at ride-hail­ing com­pany Uber and Pres­i­dent Obama’s 2008 cam­paign man­ager. Mr. Plouffe con­tacted Mr. Emanuel about the is­sue of signs that needed to be placed on ve­hi­cles do­ing pick­ups at the city’s two ma­jor air­ports.

When Alan Warms, an in­vestor who con­trib­uted thou­sands of dol­lars to Mr. Emanuel’s cam­paign com­mit­tee, com­plained about a “huge uptick in crime … in my neigh­bor­hood,” the mayor re­sponded within min­utes that more of­fi­cers were “just added” to the area, and that he was pass­ing along Mr. Warms’ ad­dress to the po­lice district.

Mr. Emanuel also heard from hedge fund bil­lion­aire Ken Grif­fin, who com­plained about a path on the lake­front that’s used by pedes­tri­ans and bikes and asked whether the city could “ac­cept pri­vate fund­ing” to make it safer. Mr. Emanuel re­sponded that Mr. Grif­fin’s idea to paint speed bumps on the path was a good one.

Just this week Mr. Grif­fin pledged $12 mil­lion to cre­ate sep­a­rate paths for run­ners and bik­ers.

Andy Shaw, the Bet­ter Gov­ern­ment As­so­ci­a­tion’s pres­i­dent and CEO, told the Tri­bune that while it is pos­si­ble a judge would have or­dered more emails re­leased af­ter a pro­tracted le­gal bat­tle, the set­tle­ment ac­com­plished its ob­jec­tives of com­pelling the city to release pri­vate emails that deal with pub­lic is­sues and a pledge from Mr. Emanuel “that he wouldn’t use pri­vate emails to do pub­lic business.”

He also said that while the agree­ment al­lows the city to claim ex­emp­tions and make redac­tions to cer­tain emails, “If we feel they are ex­ces­sive or in­ap­pro­pri­ate, we will see them in court.”


Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s de­ci­sion to release thou­sands of his per­sonal emails is do­ing lit­tle to sat­isfy those who say that emails about gov­ern­ment business sent on his per­sonal de­vices must also be made avail­able for in­spec­tion.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.