19 Chicago aldermen accused of using personal email for work

- Hillary Clinton got into trouble for using her personal email account to do government business.

Now, a government watchdog group is accusing some Chicago aldermen of doing the same.
"There's simply no excuse for this,” said Faisal Khan.

Former legislative inspector general Faisal Khan took FOX 32 on a digital tour of Chicago’s 50 aldermen, whom he says are in many cases using private email accounts and websites to conduct city business.

"There are simple clear cut rules, that government business should not be done on private emails. It's as simple as that,” Khan said.

A report released Tuesday by Project Six, the new watchdog group led by Khan, finds 19 aldermen using private emails to communicate with constituents and city departments, even though the city provides every alderman with a cityofchicago.org email address.

Khan says that's a problem because private email accounts are easier to hack, and easier to hide correspondence that should be subject to freedom of information scrutiny.

"We as citizens of the city have a right to look at their emails to see what they're doing, what they're supposed to be doing,” Khan said. "Transparency. Good government."

Project Six also found all but five aldermen maintain personal websites apart from their official city websites, which sometimes blur the line between business and politics.

In ten cases there are links on an alderman's city website to their personal website, which contain solicitations for campaign donations.

So, potentially when you contact an alderman on their personal website about needing a new garbage can, you’re actually signing up for things you don’t want.

"You're inadvertently, at least on your end, but purposely on their end, signing up for political newsletters and donations and solicitation emails,” Khan said.

FOX 32 talked to a number of aldermen about the report, none of whom wanted to go on camera, but generally defended the practice, saying it's easier to use their personal email than the city.org address they're supplied with. They said they would comply with FOIA if asked, although one alderman told me the practice does need to be reviewed.

The report also found that, remarkably, nine aldermen have no listed email address whatsoever.

The City of Chicago Law Department released the following statement Tuesday night:

"Aldermen are provided the option to use the City’s email system, however, they can choose to communicate with their constituents and others from whichever email provider they are most comfortable.  Aldermen are not subject to FOIA under the statute, as FOIA pertains only to public bodies*. However, if an Alderman or Aldermanic staff choose to use a City email address, those records may be subject to FOIA because they are within the possession of the City, which is a public body."

*See Quinn v. Stone, 211 Ill. App. 3d 809, 812 (1st Dist. 1991) (“An exhaustive review of both state and federal law defining ‘public body’ reveals no case which would include an individual alderman in that definition.”)

Read the full Project Six report

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