Report shows Hinsdale District 86 still behind on transparency
Updated: September 10, 2012 12:38PM
Hinsdale High School District 86 failed to make the grade on a transparency report that evaluates the amount of information government agencies make available on their websites.
In a press release, the Illinois Policy Institute states its local transparency project is “an effort to fight corruption and encourage public participation in government.”
In April, the institute looked at the websites of 22 government bodies to see what information was posted there. The researchers’ checklist included: budgets and financial audits from the past five years; the process for filing Freedom of Information requests; the salaries and benefits for individual employees; union or employee contracts, and vendor contracts over $25,000 for the past five years.
The institute recently reexamined the same website to see whether new data was posted there.
Governments could receive a maximum of 10 points in 10 different categories. District 86 received a 10 in only two categories: For naming all the School Board members and administrators and giving telephone numbers and email addresses to contact them; and for posting five years of budgets in a searchable format.
The check register, or itemized list of third party payments, “is one of the top two most important areas to expose,” said Brian Costin, the institute’s director of government reform. “That’s where you can dig into the details and figure out what is going on. You could see stipends for travel to Hawaii, or bills paid to family members or people who contributed to someone’s (political) campaign.”
“It’s information you already are giving to the board members, so it should be available to the public,” Costin said. “You can never have enough eyes on something like that.”
“Transparency discourages corruption and makes it easier for watchdogs in the community and the press to uncover corruption and stop it from getting to the scale in Dixon,” said Costin, referring to the city where the comptroller is accused of embezzling $53 million.
Of the 22 government websites examined, 13 had a passing grade of 60 points or higher.
Hinsdale-Clarendon Hills Elementary District 181 raised its score from 46.6 to nearly 65.
Hinsdale High School District 86’s score of 59.2 is very close to passing, Costin said, but it showed little improvement (0.1) from its score in April.
School districts 86 and 181 scored 3.25 or lower for posting salary and benefits for the past five years in a searchable database.
“That category is almost always the lowest, and it’s the area that taxpayers view and request the most,” Costin said. “It’s one of the biggest public policy debates going on.”
While government employees may want their salary and benefits to stay confidential, “they work for the taxpayers and the citizens of the community.”
“The community, in essence, is the owner of the school district and as owners, we should have access to information for the people we employ.”
All the information on the institute’s checklist is obtainable under the Freedom of Information Act, but the institute believes governments should make the information easily viewable without requiring people go through the added step and delay of filing a FOIA request.