May 11, 2010
The Transparent Sheriff – Lake County’s Mark Curran
Chicago Daily Observer
by Maria Rodriguez
On April 13, I attended a press conference with Sheriff Mark Curran and his staff to announce that the Lake County Sheriff’s Department had committed to posting their budgetary expenditure list online. (http://www.dailyherald.com/story/?id=373231 ) As far as we can tell, Curran became the first Sheriff in Illinois, possibly in the country, to make the department’s checkbook available for residents to see. That is leadership!
This action was in response to a request by For The Good Of Illinois, a non-profit organization that advocates for transparency in government spending. Over the last few years, volunteers at For The Good Of Illinois have been the resource for many school districts, community colleges and counties to post their spending records. In addition to this work, we are working with state legislators to request a complete forensic audit of Illinois state spending (HR1057, SR0763).
Check out the website at www.forthegoodofillinois.org and www.openthebooks.com to track the progress. With billions of taxpayer dollars online, we are well on our way to our twelve month transparency goal of an additional $5 billion of local spending online.
When approached with the idea to post the expenditures list, Sheriff Curran responded without hesitancy saying, “We have nothing to hide, I believe in complete transparency.” Curran is also proud of his $60 million dollar operating budget which came in 9% below last year’s budget.
I bring this up now as a reminder to Illinois residents that not all politicians are dishonest. There are still some elected officials who are true public servants. Unfortunately, stories like the apparent suicide of Metra Director Phil Pagano while under investigation for alleged corruption, only add to the frustration. It is short sighted to assume that every elected official should be thrown out of office. However, it is fair to demand a higher standard of integrity in those we elect to office. With today’s technology we should easily have access to the spending records of all governmental bodies. The American people, and Illinois residents in particular, are tired of the reckless spending with no accountability. Elected officials are stewards of the public funds; at a minimum, they should be accountable.
While we beat the drum for transparency in spending and accountability of service, we should acknowledge those elected officials who are guided in office by a strong moral compass. The more I know Sheriff Mark Curran, the more impressed I am by him. He is a principled man. You may not agree with his stand on everything, but you can count on his honesty. Congratulations to the Sheriff for giving respect to taxpayers and scrutiny to the spending.