City keeps using taxpayer money to fight CBS 2’s FOIA request on racism, harassment in the streets and San Yard – Greeley Tribune

Chicago (CBS) – FOIA – Those four letters, of course, stand for the Freedom of Information Act.

It is a tool that journalists – and indeed anyone – can use to obtain public records from the government.

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For more than a year, CBS 2 has been asking the city of Chicago for basic information.

Illinois’ attorney general even said the city should provide this information. Yet the city has continued to refuse — using taxpayer resources to fight CBS 2’s Tim McNichols’ request.

Heidi McGee and her husband, Martell, are garbage truck drivers for the city of Chicago.

In the fall of 2020, we reported that Heidi’s supervisor sent her a text containing the N-word while on the job.

McNicholas: “How do you feel today when you see this text?”

McGee: “It’s still very disturbing.”

The supervisor, who is white, later told city investigators that he had sent it to her at the time of the accident.

Martel McGee said, “There is a culture of similar things that have happened to us as well as others – and certainly worse.”

“I think other people have similar stories – I really do,” said Heidi McGee.

We wanted to look into that in 2020, but no one would talk to us in the streets and sanitation yard at 34th Street and Lawndale Avenue.

So we filed a public records request for any complaints of racism, harassment or discrimination in that yard over the past five years. It turns out that there are 6 complaints – but the city refuses to release them.

“It’s a known history of the city of Chicago the way the city of Chicago and being transparent is, I think, a good step towards destroying the culture,” said Martell McGee.

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So we asked to speak with the Illinois Attorney General’s office, and they requested that the city “provide copies of the complaints liable to Mr. McNichols.”

Despite this, the city still denies our request – and burns taxpayer resources to fight it. This month, he again answered the state why they should not release the record.

McNicholas: “Is this a violation of the Freedom of Information Act?”

Attorney Matt Subject: “Yes.”

The subject is an attorney who helps people fight the government for public records, including a freelance journalist who sued the city for video of the Laquan McDonald shooting.

“The city has a long history of illegally withholding records from the public when those records would be an embarrassment to the mayor or an embarrassment to that city’s department,” Subject said.

We would like to ask the city’s Human Resources Commissioner Christopher Onn why his department will not release the records, but he will not respond to our interview requests. The city wrote to the state that the complaint details are “of a sexual or racial nature,” and that disclosing them could invade employees’ privacy or prevent other victims from speaking up.

“They had every opportunity to prove it, and they were unable to prove it,” said the subject.

As for the person who sent that text, the city suspended him for a week and a half and then he returned to the facility—but he no longer communicates with Heidi McGee.

“I don’t want to be in the same area he is in,” said Heidi McGee.

Now she thinks, like us, how many more stories like hers.

The attorney general’s letter is not binding, so the city argues that they are yet to release the records.

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Streets and San wouldn’t say what those records contained, but they did send us a statement saying they take diversity, equality, and inclusion seriously.