Matt Topic (773) 368-8812
Robert Herguth (312) 821-9030
CHICAGO—There’s mounting evidence that Mayor Rahm Emanuel and perhaps some top city aides have used private email accounts to conduct public business in secret – in an attempt to bypass public disclosure rules.
To determine the extent of any private email use – which the Better Government Association has been researching in recent months with the Chicago Sun-Times – the BGA just filed a lawsuit in Cook County Circuit Court against the Emanuel administration.
The lawsuit seeks to force the mayor’s office to “produce records that would show the extent to which Mayor Emanuel, a self-professed transparency advocate, is using a secret, private email account for public business to avoid open records obligations and whether that violates City policy.”
Under the Illinois Freedom of Information Act – the state law known as FOIA that guarantees public access to public records – the BGA has asked the mayor’s office for records relating to private emails in an attempt to gauge the extent of their use.
The suit asserts that the mayor’s office has “willfully and intentionally violated FOIA by refusing to produce emails on Mayor Emanuel’s non-City email accounts that were used to discuss public business and refusing to produce or even search for all of its policies related to use of such accounts, as well as other non-exempt public records.”
“Government officials represent the public, and we have a right to know how they’re conducting public business,” said BGA CEO and President Andy Shaw. “One way to know what they’re doing and how they’re doing it is to review their emails. Those are public records. If they’re using private accounts to bypass public scrutiny, that is wrong.”
The lawsuit was filed Friday, Oct. 23, 2015.
The Better Government Association is a Chicago-based nonprofit, nonpartisan watchdog group that works for integrity, transparency and accountability in government by exposing corruption and inefficiency; identifying and advocating effective public policy; and engaging and mobilizing the public to achieve authentic and responsible reform.