The Illinois Policy Institute conducted transparency audits with all 102 Illinois counties and the one to the south of us–Kane County–took top honors with a score of 100%.
McHenry County was singled out for comment as follows:
‘The largest county to fail a transparency audit was McHenryCounty with a 56.4 percent. McHenry County is the sixth most populated county in Illinois with 308,760 citizens.”
Here are the aspects of the Illinois Policy Institute’s transparency check list:
10-Point Transparency Checklist
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
Want to encourage your McHenry County Board member to do more? Their contact information is below: