Berke, staff used encrypted messages to communicate

Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke and City Attorney Wade Hinton on Monday said they’ve both used encrypted smartphone message applications to communicate government business, reports the Times-Free Press.

The app they used, Whatsapp, is an encrypted messaging platform that only allows message senders and recipients to store messages and phone calls. Unlike an email sent using the city’s email server, Whatsapp does not store messages sent by its users.

Concerns over text communications by Berke and his senior staff arose after a domestic incident involving adviser Lacie Stone and her husband, Bobby. Bobby Stone has alleged his wife was having an affair with Berke, who has denied the claim.

On Monday, Berke asserted the usage of Whatsapp or similar technology does not run counter to his administration’s commitment to transparency.

“I have used Whatsapp in the past,” Berke said. “I do not currently use Whatsapp to communicate with them [his staff]. We communicated with it and sent messages that have government business on them and comply with our [open record] responsibilities, just like our text messages.”

Berke did not explain why members of the city staff used encrypted messaging as opposed to regular text messaging or offer an explanation as to why he quit using Whatsapp.