CHICAGO (CBS) — A once high-ranking police commander, Ed Wodnicki, was stripped of his police powers because of a high-speed chase through Indiana.
Now he’s at the center of another controversy: whether taxpayers have the right to access texts and emails that could explain what really happened.
During the chase, Wodnicki hit speeds of 114 miles per hour and refused to stop, claiming he was on route to official police business.
At the end of the chase with Indiana State Police near Chesterton in June, Wodnicki told the troopers, “Sir, I am heading to a call.”
But the story had some holes.
“Well, your bosses just told us you didn’t have anything urgent to get to so there is no reason you should have been driving that way,” one of the Indiana troopers responded.
“Oh please, come on guys. I’m a fucking policeman. I swear to God I thought you were giving me support,” Wodnicki said at one point after he stopped.
Eight months later, Wodnicki is still getting paid, but last month he was stripped of his police powers.
Plenty of questions still remain about exactly when the once high-ranking commander was caught driving recklessly in a city vehicle.
Tom Needham believes taxpayers have the right to know.
He’s a Chicago attorney who filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request into the incident.
“I asked for any communications Wodnicki made on that day June 12 that explained what he was doing in Indiana and any interactions he had with the Indiana state police,” Needham said.
When CPD ignored his request, he filed a lawsuit.
And ultimately CPD responded, saying Wodnicki had no communication through his work email or texts.
But what about his personal phone?
Well that’s off limits, according to the city.
Matt Topic and FOIA law expert said: “The city’s position is wrong, and it’s been rejected by courts all around the country.”
Topic was involved in the lawsuit that ultimately required Rahm Emanuel to release his private emails that pertained to public business.
He says CPD has an obligation to at least inquire whether Wodnicki made any contact with city officials during his wild ride from his personal phone.
Otherwise, Topic and Needham argue, it sends the wrong message to city officials.
“That if there is something embarrassing or something shameful or something scandalous or illegal do it on your personal iPhone or personal email account because then the city won’t ask you about it,” Needham said.
An attorney representing the city and CPD says Wodnicki was alone and there is no indication that he used his private device for public business.
The city’s asking for the case to be dismissed.
The next hearing is set for Feb. 19.