Why Is It So Hard Getting Answers About Chicagoans Getting Hosed With Bills For Water They Didn't Use?

CBS 2's Tara Molina was able to ask Mayor Lori Lightfoot two questions at her water-related press conference Thursday - and one of them focused on how hard it is to get information from the city’s Water Department on water issues.

Video Transcript

- Well, once again, we're pushing for answers about bad building at Chicago's Water Department. It's a problem we've been investigating for years, including last week when CBS 2 investigator Brad Edwards introduced you to Beatrice Ritchie, a former special education teacher who's now battling dementia.

- What brought us to them was not Mrs. Ritchie's brain now.

- I can't quite remember.

- But her bill.

- It just piqued. It just went crazy.

- Her water bill cheat of course forgotten.

- Yeah. Right now as of January 4th--

- Bill for--

- $57,133.78.

- For water never use.

- CBS 2's Tara Molina is always investigating. And Tara, you went right to the top for answers.

- Erica, we went right to the top because their answer is we've had a tough time getting. I was able to ask the mayor two questions at her water related press conference today. And one of them focused on how hard it is to get information from the water department on water related issues.

Bad billing in the tens of thousands. 57,000 in Beatrice Ritchies case. But our city requests for information about that city billing, city water issues delayed for months. And when we finally get a response from the city of Chicago's water department, this is what it looks like.

- They want $57,000 for water. That didn't make any kind of sense.

- Tough to make sense of something the city to explain, so I asked Mayor Lori Lightfoot about that, our issues getting information.

We've uncovered bad, wrong billing practices by the city, and at this point the water department will no longer address our questions about specific accounts. So what's being done to not only address the billing issue but transparency?

- I'm not aware that. The water department won't address your specific questions. I think that they've been extraordinarily cooperative and transparent in the inquiries that you've made.

- Is this extraordinarily cooperative? We don't think so, but it doesn't matter what we think. It's this 91-year-old Chicago taxpayer with dementia who owns a vacant building with no water connection.

- And I'm going to let them know that the waters off here.

- Water she's being billed for anyway, who is actually affected by this. We still don't have a real response from the water department on Beatrice's bill and that's something we're going to take a deeper dive on coming up at 6:00 when you'll hear even more from Mayor Lori Lightfoot. Reporting live in our streetside studio, I'm Tara Molina CBS 2 News.