BetterGov.org Wins Award for Forcing Emmanuel to Release Personal E-Mails

Many Local politicos continue to use personal e-mail accounts risking ultimate disclosure of non-public information

August 8, 2017-The Better Government Association (BGA), a non-profit organization in Illinois dedicated to “shining a light on government, announced that they were awarded a Eugene S. Pulliam First Amendment Award “for its work that led Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel to release correspondence in which he circumvented open records laws by using personal email accounts to conduct public business.” The award is presented annually by the Society of Professional Journalists who have “fought to protect and preserve one or more rights guaranteed by the First Amendment.”

According to a statement, BGA sued Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel and the City of Chicago to force the release of personal e-mails in which the Mayor conducted public business. “After losing nearly every legal battle for a year, the city attorneys released the emails and implemented a new policy preventing similar behavior going forward.”

“We broke news and wrote dramatic stories about city government. But beyond that, our work was a win for open government,” Bob Secter, BGA Director of Investigations said. “Other media outlets across the country finally had access to essential communications involving the mayor. They wrote their own stories, conducted their own analyses and came to their own conclusions about how Emanuel was working the levers of government.”

In fact, the e-mails revealed lurid details of private influence on multiple levels of government. While the Chicago Board of Ethics does not publicly release all investigatory information, at least 14 separate ethics probes were launched almost solely as a result of the BGA efforts and fines were issued against dozens of individuals for improper lobbying activities. Eight individuals were fined, including former campaign manager and advisor to President Barack Obama, David Ploufe.

In Lake County, numerous public officials continue to utilize personal e-mail addresses for public business making it difficult to obtain public information. The Indiana Public Access Counselor has repeatedly stated that those e-mails are subject to disclosure, but, as you can see from the BGA case, obtaining them can be costly and time consuming.

The non-partisan BGA has also forced the release of personal e-mails of Republican Governor Bruce Rauner.

We urge you to read more on the Rahm Emmanuel and Bruce Rauner e-mails. SeeBGA SPECIAL ARCHIVE: PERSONAL EMAILS, PUBLIC BUSINESS | EMANUEL & RAUNER

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