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Phoenix mayor admits to previously using secret message app

Posted at 10:07 PM, Aug 18, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-19 01:07:28-04

PHOENIX — The ABC15 Investigators have confirmed more top Phoenix city officials have used a secret messaging app called Signal.

On Thursday, Mayor Kate Gallego and her communications director, Jeanine L’Ecuyer, both admitted to previously using the app. "Signal" encrypts messages and can automatically delete them after a predetermined time period.

ABC15 Investigator Melissa Blasius asked Gallego, “Have you ever communicated with any city employees, elected officials from the city, or about city government business at all using the Signal app?”

“I did have Signal on my phone,” Gallego replied without specifically saying who, if anyone, she messaged at Phoenix City Hall. “I was advised a year ago that I should remove it. I miss now communicating with some groups of friends from college who use Signal, but the advice for my team was that it would be better not to have it.”

Last week, ABC15 Chief Investigator Dave Biscobing exposed how top Police Department officials, including Chief Jeri Williams, also used the private messaging app.

Experts said use by Phoenix police leaders raises serious concerns, especially since their messages are considered public records and would be discoverable evidence in ongoing criminal and civil cases.

State public records law requires government officers and public bodies to maintain records that are “reasonably necessary to provide an accurate accounting of their official activities,” according to the Arizona Ombudsman Citizens’ Aide.

When asked whether she preserved Signal messages made with other government officials in accordance with public records law, Mayor Gallego said, “I do my best to follow public records law; I try very hard to do so.”

After ABC15’s interview with Gallego Thursday, L’Ecuyer followed up by phone. During that call with ABC15 Investigator Melissa Blasius, L’Ecuyer said she previously used the Signal app to message other city workers.

“I was a new arrival at the office [and] did not understand the full implications of it until later on,” L’Ecuyer said. “When I became aware of the full implications of it, that is when I recommended to my chief of staff and to the staff here at the mayor's office that we refrain from further use of Signal.”

L’Ecuyer told ABC15 most of her Signal messages to other government officials “was goofing around and making jokes.” She said the use of the app was common in government circles.

ABC15 has emailed a series of questions to the mayor’s office asking for further details about Signal use by Gallego and her top aides.

Councilmember Sal DiCiccio has also weighed in on the controversy. He said this issue of secret communications between public officials could reach every level of government.

"Every single person who has this encrypted messaging can never ever expect others to be transparent,” DiCiccio said. “Those individuals who talk transparency and don't follow it themselves can never ever expect that from anyone else."

DiCiccio said he never used Signal, but he did say he previously used a different messaging app solely to communicate with relatives in another country.