Newspaper Sues Chicago Police Department Over Hidden Emails

The Chicago Tribune filed a lawsuit Wednesday alleging that the Chicago Police Department violated state open-records laws by failing to produce emails sent by, received by or copied to former Superintendent Garry McCarthy.
by | March 24, 2016 AT 12:00 PM

By Grace Wong

The Chicago Tribune filed a lawsuit Wednesday alleging that the Chicago Police Department violated state open-records laws by failing to produce emails sent by, received by or copied to former Superintendent Garry McCarthy.

The lawsuit, filed in Cook County Circuit Court, asks a judge to order the Police Department to disclose, without improper redaction, the records requested in the Tribune's Freedom of Information Act request.

The lawsuit says Tribune reporter Stacy St. Clair made a FOIA request to the Police Department Jan. 5 seeking McCarthy emails from the month of December.

The department did not respond by the deadline set by the law, and St. Clair's repeated inquiries by email and phone were not answered until she sent an email Jan. 22 to FOIA officer Sgt. Landon Wade and copied several attorneys for the city, according to the lawsuit. Wade then called and promised the documents would be produced on Jan. 26 or 27, but they never arrived, the lawsuit says.

The suit says St. Clair kept asking the Police Department about the emails for several more weeks, and then an attorney for the Tribune wrote the department's general counsel March 8 about St. Clair's FOIA and other records requests.

"Following receipt of Tribune's March 8, 2016 letter, CPD made several, successive promises to comply with the outstanding Request by dates certain but ultimately reneged on each promise -- and still has not complied with Ms. St. Clair's FOIA Request," the lawsuit said.

The Tribune says the documents sought are public documents within the scope of FOIA and that the Police Department's noncompliance is "willful and intentional."

In a statement, city Law Department spokesman Bill McCaffrey said: "We cannot comment on pending litigation, however, the City of Chicago always works to comply with the Freedom of Information Act.

"We are working to identify, produce and review these records, and to provide them as quickly as possible," McCaffrey said.

(c)2016 the Chicago Tribune