Lacking Transparency: McLean County

by:  Diane Benjamin

From the Illinois Policy Institute

Online transparency is the best solution to address the corruption problems in Illinois.  Illinois does not need to be the national headquarters for political corruption; this state can be a national leader when it comes to good government transparency and accountability reforms at the state and local level.  Online transparency of public institutions is important for many reasons – here are a few of the most important:

  • taxpayers deserve to know how their tax dollars are spent
  • online transparency helps citizens be more informed and  active participants in the democratic process
  • online transparency helps deter and expose public corruption
  • online transparency helps illuminate wasteful government spending to public watchdogs and media
  • online transparency helps lower the cost of providing information to the public
  • online transparency helps local government agencies improve the public’s trust in government, something that is sorely lacking in Illinois

McLean County scored 44.4% on the 2nd IPI transparency audit.  This is DOWN 8 points from the first audit!  

McLean County compared to other counties:

Report for McLean County:

What IPI expects isn’t difficult:

1. Contact information: Officials are elected to represent their constituents, and administrative staffers are knowledgeable resources who provide important constituent services.  In order to effectively perform their jobs, these officials should be engaged in regular dialogue with the public.  Making contact information readily available online will make these public officials as accessible as possible.
2. Public meetings: To stay informed and engaged in the democratic process, the public must know when a public body meets and what issues will be discussed.  This information should be shared through calendars, agendas and board packets. The public also should receive timely reports about what actually occurred at public meetings in the form of meeting minutes.
3. Public information: While a website with comprehensive transparency will substantially decrease the public’s need to file Foia requests, it is still important for citizens to know how to access additional public information. Foia requests provide an important means through which the public can obtain information regarding the activities of government agencies.  This process should be transparent and give the public multiple ways to submit requests.
4. Budgets: Budgets tell taxpayers how much of their money governments plan to spend.  They show what goals and priorities a government established for the year and future years.  Budget details also serve as a way for taxpayers to determine how the government performed in relation to past years.
5. Audits:  An audit reveals how well a government performs on its original budget goals, according to common professional standards. Governments are required to have audits conducted – it should follow that they make each audit report automatically available to the public.
6. Expenditures:  Online access to a checkbook register, or bill list, provides timely and pertinent information about government operations to the citizens and taxpayers.   Proactive online disclosure of expenditure information deters waste, fraud and abuse, and increases the chances of rectifying problems once they occur.
7. Compensation:  Salaries and benefits typically represent the largest expenses for most bodies of government. Government employees work for the citizens and taxpayers.   Citizens have a right to know how much in compensation they are paying each of their employees, as well as knowing the number of employees each body of government has.
8. Contracts:  Contracts – and all bids made for public contracts – should be available for review so the public can evaluate the details. This is the literal definition of doing public business in an open manner. This includes contracts with a senior employee or a collective bargaining unit.
9. Lobbying:  If the unit of government engages in lobbying activities or pays association or membership dues to any lobbying associations, that information should be disclosed on the government agency’s website. This will allow the public to make sure what is being lobbied for is in the community’s best interest and the costs are reasonable.
10. Taxes:  Citizens should have ready access to tax and fee information.  Not only is it important for citizens to know the costs of government; readily available information helps increase collection rates.

What is McLean County hiding?




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