Online Staff Report
CHICAGO — Keeping citizens informed about their local and state governments’ actions is one of the easiest ways to prevent fraud and corruption in public offices. With the constant advancements of the digital age, maintaining an informative government website has never been easier. However, recent analysis by the Illinois Policy Institute found that Kankakee, Lockport, Westmont and 10 others failed an online audit for government transparency. Some cities are violating state transparency laws.
This audit takes a close look at how much and what type of information is readily available to the public on local-government websites. Unfortunately, the analysis found that many local government websites are missing vital community information, such as public meeting schedules, government-employee salaries and tax rates. The cities of Huntley and Homer Glen passed the audit and received the Institute’s Sunshine Award for online transparency. The village of Wilmette received a perfect score for government transparency.
“Twenty-five years into the Internet age, every citizen in Illinois should have equal online access to public information,” said Brian Costin, the Institute’s director of government reform. “This survey shows the need for the state to require comprehensive online government transparency standards of all local governments. This solution would give taxpayers and government officials the tools necessary for an open and honest government, and help fight our state’s public corruption problem.”
Transparency scores were based on the Institute’s 10-point Transparency Checklist. Key findings from the special report include the following:
• Locally, Belvidere had a final audit score of 31.5, equating to an “F”; Woodstock had a final audit score of 35.6, equating to an “F”; and McHenry had a final audit score of 35.5, equating to an “F.”
• Kankakee scored 34.4 out of a possible 100 points. The city is violating state law by not posting public-employee salary and benefit data.
• Wilmette received a perfect 100 out of a possible 100 points. The village is one of only seven local governments in the state to have a perfect score for online transparency.
• Melrose Park scored 9.6 out of a possible 100 points. The village is violating multiple state transparency laws.
• Harvey scored 6.3 out of a possible 100 points. The village is violating multiple state transparency laws.
Complete coverage of the latest online transparency audit is available online at http://www.illinoispolicy.org/4-illinois-municipalities-earn-sunshine-award-17-municipalities-fail-government-transparency-audit/.
Posted Nov. 19, 2014