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Rahm's Mea Culpa On Use Of Private Email Account: 'I Wasn't Perfect'

By  Heather Cherone and Joe Ward | December 22, 2016 5:42pm 

 Mayor Rahm Emanuel discusses his use of private email at Jane Addams Digital Learning Center, 1254 S. Loomis Ave.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel discusses his use of private email at Jane Addams Digital Learning Center, 1254 S. Loomis Ave.
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DNAinfo/Joe Ward

WEST LOOP — Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Thursday said it was a mistake to use a private email account to conduct public business.

Emanuel addressed the controversy nearly 24 hours after the emails were released at an event celebrating the city's efforts to encourage children and teens to study computer science.

"I wasn't perfect," Emanuel said.

The emails were released as part of a settlement with the Better Government Association, a watchdog group that filed Freedom of Information Act requests and sued the city for access to the emails. The city also was sued over Emanuel's emails by the Tribune.

All 30,000 city employees now are banned from doing business on their personal accounts.

Emanuel echoed a statement from BGA chief executive Andy Shaw that the policy represents "a sea change in transparency" for city government.

The new policy will help city officials "navigate uncharted waters" as they use electronic communications to perform their official duties, Emanuel said.

"Technology was galloping forward, while policy was moving at a snail's pace," Emanuel said.

The nearly 3,000 pages of emails released as part of the settlement were approved by Emanuel and his attorneys, with some information redacted. Other emails — that the mayor said were purely personal — were withheld.

And the mayor acknowledged that some of the emails sent to and from his private account — mayor_re@rahmemail.com — were automatically deleted after 90 days.

Emanuel said he forwarded the "overwhelming" number of emails that concerned official business to his city account, and he routinely gave the address to Chicagoans who approached him at events with questions or concerns.

The trove of emails contained several from aldermen about city issues — including 49th Ward Ald. Joe Moore — as well as dozens to and from the mayor and his aides. Those emails frequently concerned media coverage of the mayor.

While he praised the new policy, saying it would "shed light" on city government, Emanuel said he was concerned that it could compromise the privacy of public officials and deter them from seeking outside advice and counsel.

"You don't want to see somebody in public life be totally excluded from being exposed to people," Emanuel said.

The new policy — although it was the "right thing" to do — has drawbacks, Emanuel said.

"It doesn't come potentially cost-free," Emanuel said.

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