CHICAGO (CBS) -- Mayor Lori Lightfoot accused an unnamed alderman of breaking the law by recording a private conference call between herself and the City Council, and leaking a foul-mouthed exchange to the media.
During a conference call with all 50 aldermen on May 31 to discuss the city's response to widespread looting, Lightfoot and Ald. Raymond Lopez (15th) traded profanities when he accused the city of being ill-prepared for the violence, and expressed concerns looters could start targeting homes. Looters pillaged shops throughout the city as peaceful protesters were taking to the streets on the last weekend in May in memory of George Floyd, who died as a police officer pressed his knee to Floyd's neck for several minutes during an arrest on Memorial Day in Minneapolis.
Lightfoot did not answer Lopez's questions in the call, prompting an angry exchange.
"It's not something you ignore. This is a question that I have," Lopez said.
That's when the call turned profane.
"I think you're 100% full of s***, is what I think," Lightfoot said.
Lopez was infuriated.
"F*** you, then. Who are you to tell me I'm full of s***?" he said. "Maybe you should come out and see what's going on."
Warning: The following audio file contains profanity. Audience discretion is advised.
The profane argument was first reported by the Chicago Sun-Times, and WTTW later obtained a recording of the call. On Monday, a source provided CBS 2 with a snippet of the call, including the foul-mouthed back-and-forth between Lopez and Lightfoot.
On Wednesday, the mayor was asked if she regretted her use of profanity. She did not directly answer the question, but said that the conversation was meant to be private, and said she and the aldermen need to be able to have candid conversations.
"There were a lot of incredible emotions that were shared in that call by fellow aldermen, now all of whom don't feel secure or safe coming together with their colleagues, because of one individual who decided to illegally tape a conversation that was intended to be a private conversation among all of us," she said.
Lightfoot did not directly accuse Lopez of leaking the recordings, but clearly suggested he was behind it.
"One of the aldermen, and I think we know who it is, illegally taped and then shared only that portion of the conversation that served his purposes," she said. "Shame on him. Shame on him. That's what I say."
Lopez denied recording and leaking the call, and accused the mayor of hypocrisy for saying it was illegal, claiming her staff has recorded every Zoom meeting with aldermen during the pandemic. He also claimed the calls the mayor has been holding with all 50 aldermen during the pandemic are a violation of the Open Meetings Act, and accused her of trying to distract from the substance of the call.
"The Zoom meetings invite 51 elected officials and nearly a dozen staff, yet Lightfoot's anger is once again directed solely at me because I refuse to accept her failures. Furthermore, I do not believe her anger and outrage over these leaks has nothing to do with my colleagues. It has to do with her inability to spin the narrative in a way that benefits her," Lopez wrote in an email to CBS 2. "The curtain has been pulled back, revealing the truth behind the chaos."
The mayor's office denied the private conference calls with aldermen have been a violation of the Open Meetings Act.
"The telephone conferences you are referring to were organized and hosted by various administration officials to provide COVID-related informational updates to the aldermen. These updates were arranged and carried out solely for the administration to convey information about the status of COVID-related efforts and field questions on those efforts. For a meeting to be subject to The Open Meetings Act, it must include deliberation (for example, legislative debate) and/or action (for example, a vote), which did not occur on these calls," press secretary Anel Ruiz stated in an email.
Lopez said the Illinois Attorney General's Public Access Counselor should investigate. A spokesperson for the Attorney General's office confirmed the Public Access Counselor received a complaint about the private briefings with aldermen, and is looking into the issue.
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