Two southern Illinois counties make strides in online transparency
SPRINGFIELD — A new survey of government transparency on county websites in southern Illinois shows only two counties making progress toward openness.
There is plenty of work still to be done, said Brian Costin, director of government reform at the Illinois Policy Institute, a right-leaning think tank that monitors government transparency in the state.
“With Illinois’ history of corruption, no one in this state should be resisting improving transparency efforts,” he said.
Union and Madison counties earned top scores in the most recent installment of the institute’s “Local Transparency Project,” which grades local government websites on how much public data — such as number of employees, salaries, tax rates, budgets, contracts and meeting calendars, agendas and minutes — is available to users.
Madison County, in the Metro East, received the only passing grade overall. Union County, in far southern Illinois, showed the most improvement since a review three months ago when it did not have a website. Even though it received a failing grade during the most-recent review, Costin said Union County showed clear improvement in the right direction.
State laws, such as the Freedom of Information Act and the Open Meetings Act, provide some guidance for what local governments must post online, but they can go beyond those requirements. Of the 14 southern Illinois counties surveyed by the institute, only Madison and Union were compliant with posting requirements of the two acts.
Two other counties — St. Clair and Monroe — were compliant with Open Meetings Act posting requirements but not those of FOIA. Ten counties were not compliant with either.
“Unfortunately, it’s not just the institute’s suggestions that these counties are failing to live up to. Many are failing to comply with basic state laws,” Costin said. “Taxpayers should demand for more transparency from their elected officials.”
Union County Treasurer Darren Bailey said the policy institute’s review prompted the county to work on being transparent on its website.
“With the current environment of government in Illinois so overcast and gloomy, it is vital that we have programs like (this) breaking up the clouds,” he said.
The 12 other counties that failed the institute’s audit were Bond, Clinton, Franklin, Jackson, Jefferson, Johnson, Madison, Monroe, Pulaski, Randolph, St. Clair, Washington and White.
Twelve southern Illinois counties have no official government websites — Alexander, Edwards, Gallatin, Hamilton, Hardin, Massac, Perry, Pope, Saline, Wabash, Wayne and Williamson.
The institute has graded more than 250 government sites since 2010, when it launched its transparency project.
Contact Jayette Bolinski at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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