WBEZ Investigation: The Illinois Legionnaires’ Emails Gov. Rauner Doesn’t Want Lawmakers To See

A WBEZ analysis of nearly 450 pages of emails found that government lawyers blacked out portions of more than half the documents recently turned over to a legislative panel investigating the state’s inability to contain the waterborne illness. Repeated outbreaks at the home since 2015 have contributed to the deaths of 13 residents and sickened dozens more.

The way the government lawyers wielded their figurative black markers to redact hundreds of Legionnaires’-related emails has some lawmakers fuming and government transparency advocates crying foul.

WBEZ had previously obtained some Legionnaires’-related emails from the public health department in Adams County, where the Quincy home is located. The Rauner administration later handed over some of those same emails to the legislative committee investigating the outbreaks — with significantly more redactions. By cross-checking the two groups of documents, it’s possible to see some of what Rauner’s office didn’t want lawmakers to see. 

In some cases, lawmakers received documents so heavily redacted that they were virtually useless. Furthermore, lawmakers simply did not receive some emails written by administration officials that WBEZ knows to exist. 

The analysis offers a rare side-by-side look into the subjective — and often inconsistent — way the administration has shielded documents from public scrutiny, which one transparency advocate said “upends” the spirit of Illinois’ public records law. Read more…