Ald. Debra Silverstein has been identified by the BGA and Project Six as one of nineteen alderman who conduct City business on private, unsecured email systems. She is also one of 45 aldermen using privately-owned ward Web sites that may be collecting and retaining residents’ private information when the sites are used to request 311 services.
The Project Six report notes that the use of these privately-owned Ward Web sites “…make it harder for the public to see how their elected officials are serving their respective offices and spending tax dollars. It also opens the possibility for constituents’ personal information being used for political reasons.” Using these private sites to request City services also slows response time, to the detriment of citizens who need City services.
The use of a private e-mail system is questionable for other reasons as well. Such systems are not subject to FOIA requests as government-owned systems are, and do not have the same degree of protection from hackers and cyberattacks that government systems do.
Rather than using the City-provided email address (Ward50@cityofchicago.org), the alderman uses “firstname.lastname@example.org.” As the report notes, “All government emails are subject to Freedom of Information requests and provide an easily trackable and searchable source of an elected official’s communications Using private email accounts can make it hard, if not impossible, for citizens or the media to obtain email correspondence and data concerning public city business.”
Silverstein has established a six-year record that demonstrates both a lack of transparency and a preference for keeping her constituents in the dark about her activities. She is well-known for her stealth zoning changes and her lack of candor when it comes to keeping constituents informed. Her photo-laden newsletters convey little substantive information. Now we find that she’s using private systems for public business. One has to wonder why.
Read the Project Six analysis here.