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What’s Missing from Emanuel E-Mail Dump?

Don Rose 27 December 2016 One Comment

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel did not have his own private email server for city business the way a certain secretary of state did. Nevertheless he conducted quite a bit of city business from his own personal email address, evading laws requiring all city business to be conducted on the city’s system. Emanuel presumed those messages were protected from public scrutiny under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). (This from a mayor who boasts of his administration’s “transparency.”)


Both the Better Government Association–a private watchdog group–and earlier the Chicago Tribune disagreed and took separate actions to make those messages public. Emanuel resisted, fighting tooth and nail in court for a couple of years but finally lost the BGA action and one phase of the Tribune’s.

From the outset many of us hoped that among the revelations might be information to prove–or disprove–the theory that Emanuel kept the video documentation of Laquan McDonald’s murder by a policeman under wraps during his tough re-election campaign against Jesus “Chuy” Garcia. Had those videos been released during the campaign it could have cost Emanuel the election–as they eventually cost top cop Garry McCarthy his job and eventually the defeat of State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez.

But oddly, among 2,700 pages of emails finally released in settlement of the BGA case, the papers found only one reference to McDonald–a congratulatory message from Ald. Joe Moore (49th)for not getting caught in any wrongdoing regarding McDonald.

Strikes me as odd–but there was an even odder reason: the judge ordered that Emanuel’s lawyers and not a judge or independent agency sift through the emails and texts to determine which were city business and which were private. In other words, had there been anything seriously incriminating regarding the McDonald case or any other, the lawyers could theoretically have retained them as “personal” rather than city business.

Very strange indeed.

The BGA reluctantly agreed, in effect giving the defendant the opportunity to trash anything incriminating. The BGA said it would have difficulty pursuing the case longer–though it was compensated for its legal fees. Emanuel, meanwhile, takes a small hit for having illegally conducted city business on his private account. Is this “the Chicago way”?

Most of the emails released were to the mayor–begging favors ranging from fixing parking tickets to permitting Uber cars to pick up passengers at the airport. We don’t know whether he fixed the tickets or not–but after forwarding the Uber request to a city agency, the company was soon granted the right to pick up passengers at the airport. The fact that the mayor’s brother Ari is a big stakeholder in Uber somehow makes it look like that specific decision was indeed “the Chicago way.”

The judge in the pending Tribune case has ordered a complete index of all pertinent emails prior to making the contents public. Who knows what information might lie in that trove–especially if an independent party and not Emanuel’s lawyers vet them. But who knows what messages have already been deleted by this “transparent” administration.

Don Rose is a regular columnist for the Chicago Daily Observer

One Comment »

  • No Thanks said:

    It is interesting to see if the emails address how Rahm Emanuel spends tax dollars on public works. Coincidentally, some of the handful of projects to be approved benefit the mayor. The Chicago Transit Authority can commit millions to construct the Belmont Flyover because a certain impatient commuter (Rahm) from Ravenswood was unhappy that when trains from the Brown, Purple and Red lines converge near Belmont, it can sometimes take as long as two and a half minutes for the switches to be activated allowing trains to cross over and share the same tracks. Likewise, the intersection of Clybourn, Damen and Fullerton, which merge near the Chicago River had to be reconstructed because Rahm’s often ticket motorcade travels along this route.

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