CHICAGO (CBS) — Mayor Lori Lightfoot continues to hammer home the importance of transparency, especially when it comes to police misconduct. But CBS 2 Political Investigator Dana Kozlov has learned Tuesday city lawyers are heading back to court to try to keep hundreds of police misconduct records from being released.
It all began with one man’s public records request, which the city ignored, in his fight to clear his name.
The city then offered him $500,000 to make his records request go away, but there was never a payout. Those police misconduct records remain sealed.
“The city’s commitment to transparency over its police accountability systems is not real. It is fake,” said attorney Jared Kosoglad.
Kosoglad represents Charles Green, convicted at age 16 for taking part in a 1985 quadruple murder. In 2009, Green was released from prison after a judge ruled critical testimony wasn’t allowed at his trial. He later filed a Freedom of Information Act request for five decades of closed Chicago Police records “to help him discover evidence of his innocence.”
The city never responded. Green sued to get those records released, and that’s when city attorneys made an offer.
“They were trying to pay Mr. Green a half a million dollars to go away from his request for records,” Kosoglad said.
That was in July, when CBS 2 first reported the story. There was a finance committee hearing on the settlement, and, out of necessity, Green was ready to take it. But some aldermen were concerned a payout would keep those records sealed, which they opposed.
So Finance Committee Chairman Scott Waguespack drafted an ordinance outlining how those records would be released. The ordinance has gone nowhere since. Kosoglad said the offer disappeared. And city attorneys are now headed to appeals court to keep those records under wraps.
“They are speaking out of both sides of their mouth,” Kosoglad said. “Going to the public, telling them they want to be transparent and fighting transparency in every possible place.”
But Mayor Lori Lightfoot said four years of those records have been made public.
“We’re continuing to work on a process to go back even further,” she said. “So there’s no lack of transparency in that case.”
She indicates the city’s fight isn’t over the records release, but the cumbersome task of actually releasing them.
“But I won’t comment further since this is an active piece of litigation,” she said.
Kozlov spoke with Ald. Waguespack’s chief of staff and Ald. Taliaferro, the head of the Public Safety Committee, both committees involved in the records ordinance. They say it is not dead but they are trying to schedule a hearing on it for later this month — seven months after it was first introduced.
Green’s attorney says as far as he’s been told, the settlement offer is dead. Kozlov could not get an answer on that from the city. Kosoglad will also be in court fighting to keep intact a lower court’s ruling that the files be released. It’s all about accountability, he says.