Advice for the McHenry County College Board from Jane Collins


To the District Board of Trustees:

At your December 20, 2007 meeting, you discussed how to enhance the Board’s public image.

May I suggest that instead of hiring a public relations firm to improve its image, that the Board ask its constituents what it must do to restore the public’s confidence and trust in its actions?

Although some trustees have shown a willingness to listen to and respond to constituents’ concerns and questions, there are others who obdurately cling to attitudes and actions that do not convey to the people they serve that this Board is open, responsive, accountable and transparent in its conduct of the People’s business.

With this in mind, I offer the following suggestions.

I. Foster transparency.

a. Record meetings to provide a complete, accurate record of all open meetings.

b. Comply with the Freedom of Information Act [Act]. The current policy: according to District Counsel Perkoski, the Act is “a balancing of rights”; Counsel Kerrick has advised the Board that the correct response to a FOIA request is to “see what is exempt.”

Both interpretations are too narrow. The Act protects the public’s right to know how the People’s business is conducted – not how much can be withheld and kept secret.
Instead of focussing on WHO is asking for public documents or how many requests have been received, the Board should ask WHAT is being asked and WHETHER these are not the questions that the Board itself should be asking.

c. Establish a fair and objective FOIA request & appeal process. Current policy: President Packard has the authority to release records he deems “appropriate,” then to decide whether to uphold his denials of records, if denials are appealed. The public’s only recourse: to sue the District for public records – essentially making them unobtainable.

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