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Alton Telegraph Editorial, “The True Definition of ‘Undue Burden’- To the Comptroller: Open Up”

Alton Telegraph Editorial
January 8, 2012
Read original, click here.

We’ve always thought of state Comptroller Judy Baar-Topinka’s office as one of the few shining spots in state government.

Sensible, straight-forward and unimpressed by partisan politics, it seemed a place transparency could thrive.

That’s why we are troubled to see the office is about to butt heads with For the Good of Illinois — the people behind openthebooks.com — another group that has earned the public’s respect for its willingness to cut through the red tape and the political nonsense.

Yet, it looks as though a lawsuit is going to be filed against the comptroller because of the same red tape she disdains.

According to For The Good of Illinois, it filed a Freedom of Information Act request nine months ago asking Baar-Topinka to open the state’s ledgers to the group.

That’s not an unusual request. For The Good of Illinois has long said it would like to see details about every dime of taxpayers’ money that is spent subject to public review. It already has done a yeoman’s work in compiling such information for school districts, city and county municipalities.

That the state’s budget would be the main course in its feast of transparency is only logical.

Baar-Topinka’s office denied the request, saying it would create an “undue burden.” She estimated it would take staff members three days of work to get that information together.

We have been at the receiving end of the “undue burden” claim ourselves and know it’s generally little more than a smoke-and-mirrors dance designed to put off and wear down those who seek information until eventually they go away.

For The Good of Illinois CEO Adam Andrzejewski and his crew have seen it before, as well. Fortunately, they are no shrinking violets when it comes to confrontation.

The group followed proper procedure and appealed the decision to Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s office. The office used those magic words “ … further inquiry is warranted …” and a case was opened. Now, eight months after appealing and five months since seeing any sign of life from the attorney general’s office, the group will ask the court to intervene.

It’s almost like picking a favorite from among two children, but we have to believe For The Good of Illinois is doing exactly what should be done when faced with government hiding behind ill-fitting exemptions and loopholes.

Every Illinoisan should be able to see exactly where money is going and how it has been spent in the past. Every dime.

To force such lengthy measures as court action to be taken after nine months of delays — that’s a true definition of undue burden.


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