Last Week’s 7-5-2012 Kendall County Record/ Oswego Ledger Sentinel headline “Kendall County website cited for lack of transparency,” confirms what I have been saying to the Kendall County Board for years.
That conclusion came from a recent outside study completed by the “Illinois Policy Institute” who performed website audits for 26 county governments in northern Illinois. Brian Costin, director of government reform at the institute, said they rated the counties studied based upon contact information, meeting information including access to meeting minutes, board packets, calendars and agendas. Also reviewed was the amount of information provided to help residents file a (FOIA) Freedom of Information request.
Two audits were performed, Kendall County first scored a 26.9, deficiencies were identified, and our County Government was given an opportunity to make basic and necessary corrections, kind of an open book test with the answers provided. Kendall County failed again, this time receiving a higher transparency score of 45.2 grade on a scale of 100. Costin stated, “Kendall County made some improvements over the course of this project but obviously there is a long way to go.” I know that is not an understatement, it took our county government the better part of two years to move from a magnetic cassette tape recording format to a digital computer format. Only God knows what actually took place at the pre-digital meetings because the actual audio records of those meetings held are long gone because it was common practice to record over the cassette tapes used for prior meetings.
The County Board made a promise in May 2010
to put recorded Kendall County Board Meeting audio on the county website. On May 27, 2010, Stan Laken, Technology Director for Kendall County publicly stated to the Ledger Sentinel/Record newspaper and to the Kendall County Board that it will not cost much too digitally record the meetings and post them on the county’s website. There are four paid employees in the County’s IT Dept. and two more county employees that do IT work in the County’s GIS Dept. and at the Sheriff’s Dept. Yet this promise has yet to be fulfilled because our county government officials like to conduct county business in a virtual vacuum.
In Dec. 2009, I told the Kendall County Board and then Kendall County Board Finance Committee Chairman John Purcell about free software
http://www.todd4kendall.org/2news.html (Click on top right, scrolling caption #2, "Todd wants Transparency" wait to load, enlarge to your liking)
provided by DuPage County for any county wanting to put their County’s Checkbook online, so we citizens could review how our tax monies are being spent. To date there has been no action and no online government checkbook. The same John Purcell, who now is Kendall County Board Chairman and resides in this vacuum failed to implement Kendall County Auditor Tonya Mack’s Dec. 2007 findings for two plus years
http://www.yorkvilleinsider.org/sheriff/auditfind122707.pdf See page 2 of 2, Finding #2 and #3
requiring government officials to produce “itemized receipts” for Credit Card purchases.
http://www.yorkvilleinsider.org/sheriff/brdreqfreceipt.pdf See Pages 2, 11 and 12 of 12 for county memos
Only during the Lea/Randall Sheriff’s Election in Sept. 2010 did Mr. Purcell under considerable electorate pressure implement this basic requirement for” itemized” receipts. (Again, see page 12 of 12) Finally, on 11-1-2011 Kendall County’s “no alcohol” policy was implemented.
http://www.yorkvilleinsider.org/Purcell/employ_handbook_2011.docx (Big file, takes some time to load) See Page 66 and 76 of 76
The purchase of alcohol or controlled substances, including cannabis, with county funds by a county employee or official is not considered a legal use of public funds. County employees and officials shall not purchase alcohol or controlled substances, including cannabis, using public funds or county credit cards, nor shall public dollars be used to reimburse employees and officials making such purchases with private credit cards or private funds
Our entitlement-minded county board is perfectly happy doing business in a vacuum, will they ever be able to listen when only they control what is heard? Public Feedback is a very essential and valuable thing to the general electorate. The audio recordings of live meeting discussions are very telling. They inform us about the tenor of the debate, how our county government decisions are made, and they are a permanent record of the live interaction between our County Board members. It something that is so easy to do and promise, but so hard for existing board members to embrace and choose to make readily available to the public. Likewise, for the County Checkbook, online and in real time, it is the permanent and ongoing record for government financial transactions for how our tax monies are being spent which we are entitled to, after all were the ones actually paying the those government bills.
Change is only accomplished when considerable pressure is brought to bear on the ones who are entrenched, who believe they are entitled, our “Royal” County Board, the “Good Ole Boys,” they know best.
It is time to turn up the volume for what is so needed and so basic to allow us citizens’ essential oversight. King Purcell and your court, please provide a meaningful, citizen friendly and useable county website, NOW, it is long overdue.