Chicago Mayor Promises To Turn Over Emails From His Private Accounts Following Courtroom Losses

from the getting-right-in-on-the-eighth-or-ninth-floor-of-the-inevitable dept

Not only is the use of private email accounts to route around public records requests a common practice, it's also an accepted practice. Politicians aren't going to sell out their own in the name of transparency, so there's likely as many private email accounts handling official business as there are government employees. Everyone from former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg to Gen. Colin Powell has used private email accounts to handle government communications they'd rather not be made public.

The same goes for Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel. For years, journalists and government transparency groups have been trying (and suing) to get the mayor to turn over city-related emails contained in his personal accounts. To date, the city of Chicago hasn't budged.

But we're living in a "new" era of Chicago-brand transparency -- the aftermath of the city's concerted cover-up of police recordings of the Laquan McDonald shooting. The mayor pledged the city would be more open and forthcoming in the future -- not a difficult promise to make considering there was nowhere to go but up.

Roughly a year after that announcement, one layer of opacity has been peeled back by the mayor's office. Given that it was prompted by multiple lawsuits and unsympathetic court rulings, it's probably best to hold any applause until something more proactive is witnessed.

As a result of a BGA [Better Government Association] investigation and legal action, The City of Chicago and Mayor Rahm Emanuel have agreed to release all of Emanuel's private emails related to city business—subject to any applicable legal exemptions—and institute a new policy that will ban city employees and officials from using their private email accounts to conduct city business.

The city's change in practices comes in response to Freedom of Information Act requests and lawsuits filed by the BGA, and separately by the Chicago Tribune, and follows more than a year of hard-fought litigation and rulings by two Cook County judges that public officials’ emails are not outside the scope of FOIA simply because they are on a private account.

If this clenched-teeth transparency sounds familiar, it's probably because Mayor Emanuel -- like the president he briefly worked for -- has promised unheard of levels of transparency…

Emanuel claimed from the start of his tenure at City Hall in 2011 that his leadership would be among the most transparent in the nation.

and delivered almost none of it.

But accessing public records at City Hall—especially documents about hot topics of those pertaining directly to the mayor himself—has often been met with delays, obfuscation or court battles.

And so it goes. This is an important victory for the public, moved along by court rulings stating pretty much the same thing Chicago's administrative branch is only now conceding: official business is official business, whether it's carried out on official email accounts or not. The new policy prompted by lawsuits and court losses orders city employees to push any work-related emails received on personal accounts to their city of Chicago accounts or face whatever form of discipline the city deems appropriate. The latter half of this sentence will dictate the success of the first half, so it's up to city employees to keep other city employees honest. Considering this is Chicago, birthplace of the mobbed-up politician, I expect it will be several more years before the city even begins to approach the lofty transparency goals its own mayor has shown no interest in attaining.

Filed Under: chicago, emails, foia, private emails, public records, rahm emanuel


Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread


  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Jan 2017 @ 2:56pm

    He learned from the best

    He learned his transparency from Obama and his private email from Hillary. Birds of a feather and all.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 19 Jan 2017 @ 4:48pm

      Re: He learned from the best

      "He learned ... his private email from Hillary"

      What if whoever phished Podesta's email
      had included a click through EULA which
      included an admission that by clicking
      this EULA, Podesta's emails would become
      available, and might later be made public?

      As we know, no one actually reads EULA's,
      so Podesta would have clicked through, and
      thereby given explicit permission to
      publish all of his emails.

      Worse still, the hacker would then have
      *not committed any crime*, and so could
      not be prosecuted.

      So if you're going phishing, you might
      want to create a phishing license.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Aaron Walkhouse (profile), 20 Jan 2017 @ 11:07am

        No good…

        …as you can't legally enforce a contract as part of an illegal act.

        This is why mobsters and Chicago politicians use guns instead. ‌ ;]

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Roger Strong (profile), 19 Jan 2017 @ 3:09pm

    Oh, spare us.

    Secretaries of State Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice used private accounts for classified emails. In fact Colin Powell advised Hillary to do so.

    Then there's Bush II, Cheney, Rove and anyone else connected to the Bush White House email controversy, tens of millions of White House emails sent through private servers. Millions of them lost. With the same security issues.

    And Jeb!, who as governor used his own server against the rules and as Florida governor to discuss security and military issues such as troop deployments to the Middle East and the protection of nuclear plants.

    2016 Republican candidates Scott Walker, Marco Rubio, Chris Christie, Rick Perry and Bobby Jindal each have their own email scandals. Mitt Romney too.

    And of course there's all those Congressman who claim that they "don't use email", while having their aides use their private accounts to avoid FOIA requests, security be damned.

    But no doubt you believe in IOKIYAR: It's OK If You're A Republican.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Roger Strong (profile), 19 Jan 2017 @ 3:10pm

      Re:

      er, that was a response to the AC above.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 19 Jan 2017 @ 3:32pm

      Re:

      Wow, you guys claim you don't play team politics but when someone mentions anything disparaging (TM) about your team you come out like rabid dogs.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Roger Strong (profile), 19 Jan 2017 @ 3:37pm

        Re: Re:

        If you don't like "team politics", then why did you troll with it?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        orbitalinsertion (profile), 19 Jan 2017 @ 3:48pm

        Re: Re:

        As opposed to the rabid dogs who come out to make unrelated comments about "our team" which are incorrect, pointless, and irrelevant? It is to laugh.

        Also pretty sure most people who comment here who lean toward the progressive or Democrat side are not actual fans of the Democratic party nor their politicians in actual practice. Conservative and Republican-leaning people here do not necessarily hew to the party, either. So you can go burn that strawman elsewhere.

        You are the one who dragged partisan bs into this. Emanuel didn't have to learn it from anyone. They all do it, and have for ages. But it seems the ones who like to whine the loudest and most often about partisan politics are always the first to kick that dead horse it into the discussion.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile), 19 Jan 2017 @ 3:59pm

        Re: Re:

        Except when they disparage both sides of the equation, and sometimes all five sides.

        Trolls troll. Your missed, but only under your bridge.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 20 Jan 2017 @ 5:11am

          Re: Re: Re:

          It is interesting to watch people's reactions to situations they do not (or refuse to) understand. For example, one person points out deficiencies in all political views regarding a particular item, say SOPA. Then some other person attacks this making accusations of partisanship ignoring the fact that none existed to begin with.

          Troll loses with those who see the whole picture, troll wins with those who have tunnel vision.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile), 20 Jan 2017 @ 6:50am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            So, you are the only one who understands? Careful of that pedestal upon which you place yourself, it's precarious.

            Beside that, your the one making partisan claims, others are only refuting your 'I know it all' and 'no one else knows anything' position. Which is not only wrong, but absurd.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 19 Jan 2017 @ 7:04pm

      Re:

      Oh, spare us.

      But that wouldn't allow for an outraged renunciation and condemnation of a political opponents faux pa - a treasure beyond price it would seem.

      Having said that, I no longer question if things will change. Decades of experience shows that when we think we see change, all we're really seeing is a change in how the bodies are hidden. The bodies are still there, still accumulating, still moldering in their make shift graves.

      This is why some feel optimistic about PeOTUS Trump and his "drain the swamp" rhetoric. I would have cause to feel somewhat optimistic about a change finally occurring - if the incoming faces of his administration were not the same, shopworn feces we've already seen before, and thrown out of office before, with policies we've tried before and have seen fail before.

      Not that it would be any different with any other candidate. Change is too disruptive and will not be allowed. Better the devils they know, than chance the evil of a possibly lost one red cent of profit pounded from the corpse of the people.

      The people I would like to see elected are all too smart to wander into that mine field of hate, intolerance, parochialism, special interests and ignorance. I wouldn't run for office myself for all the tea in the world.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anon, 20 Jan 2017 @ 11:52am

      Re:

      I say, take them all to trial on all sides if there's decent evidence, and start the perp walks. Very rapidly the rest of them would come to heel. These dirtbags WORK FOR US. They should start acting like it.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Jan 2017 @ 8:23pm

    You're just a stooge for the GOP.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Paul Keating, 20 Jan 2017 @ 5:44am

    Transparency # Voluntary Disclosure

    Duh.......Its all about timing. People who claim to be transparent do so only when it is beneficial OR it is mandated by some authority. If you remember that rule it is easy to understand Chicago's belief that it is "transparent" and at the same time requiring each request to proceed to litigation.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    stosh, 20 Jan 2017 @ 9:54am

    "The City of Chicago and Mayor Rahm Emanuel have agreed to release all of Emanuel's private emails related to city business—subject to any applicable legal exemptions"

    So you're saying another 5-10 years of court cases deciding which are covered as "subject to any applicable legal exemptions"

    The more things change, the more they stay the same....

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Ingot9455, 20 Jan 2017 @ 12:38pm

    Colin Powell

    Although, in Colin Powell's defense, when he used his personal email for State Department business, it was because the State Department did not yet have a standard email system. (It had a secure system for secure information access, but that couldn't be used to contact anyone external.)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown for basic formatting. (HTML is not supported.)
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Close

Add A Reply

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown for basic formatting. (HTML is not supported.)
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Follow Techdirt
Techdirt Gear
Shop Now: Techdirt Logo Gear
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads

Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.