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Monday, May 6, 2013 07:13 am

Houston: We have a problem, maybe

Mayor asks attorney general to probe police

Springfield Mayor Mike Houston has asked attorney general Lisa Madigan to determine whether the city’s police department did anything wrong when it expunged police internal affairs files, apparently while those files were the subject of records requests made under the state Freedom of Information Act.

In a Monday letter to Madigan, Houston wrote that 30 files were “expunged” on April 25 after the police chief Robert Williams that same day signed an agreement with the union representing police officers that reduced the retention period for internal affairs files from five years to four years. In his letter to Madigan, Houston wrote that there were pending requests for internal affairs files. He did not identify the officers whose files were the subject of requests “due to the personnel and privacy issues involved.”

It isn’t clear why Houston did not reveal the names of officers, given that the state Freedom of Information Act states that disclosure of records pertaining to the performance of public duties of public employees is not an invasion of privacy. With the exception of performance evaluations and such personal information as phone numbers and dates of birth, personnel records are also not exempt from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act.

The mayor’s letter came less than a week after Calvin Christian, a city resident who had twice sued the city seeking internal affairs files, sued for a third time, claiming that the city had illegally destroyed 73 internal affairs files on the same day that Williams and the police union president signed the agreement reducing the retention period from five to four years. It wasn’t immediately clear why Houston in his letter to Madigan wrote that 30 files were “expunged” and Christian in his lawsuit says that 73 files were destroyed.

Houston asked for the attorney general to review the matter under pressure from the city council. Some aldermen are calling for a criminal investigation by Madigan’s office, and the council has scheduled a vote on a resolution to bar the city from destroying any more documents.

Houston could not be reached for comment on Monday night.
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