Learn More Open the Books

Republicans again call for “transparency”

August 27, 2010
Republicans again call for “transparency”
Dunstan calls Slusser’s efforts political “grandstanding”
Edwardsville Intelligencer
By Steve Horrell

Madison County Board member Chris Slusser is once again pushing to have the county’s checkbook available online.

It’s part of a “transparency in government” push that Slusser, a Republican from Kendall Hills, made this week with two other Republicans, Madison County Recorder candidate Matt Rice and former gubernatorial candidate Adam Andrzejewski.

Slusser made a similar request in March, and says it should have been resolved in 90 days.

“I’ve been told that it has been ready to go online for nearly two months, yet we still haven’t seen any movement,” Slusser said in a news release. “So today, I submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to the Madison County Auditor’s office to receive the checkbook register. And through my commitment to transparency to the taxpayers, I will place it online on a Web site in the coming weeks.”

The trio visited the Intelligencer following a news conference on Monday. Andrzejewski, who spearheaded the Open Books Revolution three years ago, has trained volunteers across the state who he claims put $1 billion of school spending online “just by asking properly.” He also helped convince DuPage and Cook counties to post their checkbooks online. “If Cook County can post their checkbook this spring, certainly Madison County can post their’s,” Andrzejewski said. “I call on Chairman Dunstan to tear down this wall and show taxpayers exactly where every dime is being spent.”

On Tuesday, Madison County Board Chairman Alan Dunstan was still livid. Instead of grandstanding, Slusser should have addressed the issue at a Finance meeting or at the Aug. 18 Madison County Board meeting, he said.

“A County Board member doesn’t have to file a FOIA request,” he said. “He came in and we showed him what we have. He knew we were working on it. He also knows we’re getting close to releasing it, so he does a news release. Don’t play politics.”

Madison County has already created a portal, and much of that information is already on the Web site, said Madison County Administrator Joe Parente. “It’s one-stop shopping for people, basically opening up the county’s records,” Parente said. “Agendas, minutes, budgets, annual reports, outside vendor payment.” Every expenditure payment – 147 pages worth – that was made in the first six months of the year will be there, Parente said. The portal will be listing every vendor and how much the county has paid them to date, Parente said.

The checkbook won’t be the only thing to go online. Madison County Board member Nate Hartmann has suggested that the county post its audit online, along with bid notices and jobs that are available in Madison County government. Parente suggested that its union contracts be posted as well. Dunstan said that economic interest statements will also be posted.

Dunstan said Slusser’s request is simply a ploy to pump up interest into Rice’s campaign. “Other board members are livid with him,” he said. “He’s the one board member who’s out there in la-la land someplace.”

Despite Slusser’s assertion, posting the checkbook online isn’t quite as easy as the Republicans maintain, Dunstan and Parente said. “We have things that are confidential,” Dunstan said. “We do low-income energy assistance, and there are HIPAA (privacy) laws,” Parente said. “You may have a check to a person that would reveal that.”

Madison County recently received a “B” grade from www.sunshinereview.org, a Web site promoting government accountability and transparency. Parente says he called them recently and learned that Madison County is just one point away from an “A.”

“Putting all this up there will give us an “A-plus,” he said. “We’re ahead already, and we’re taking this to the top level.”

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