GENEVA – The debate may still rage over whether corruption exists in Kane County’s government.
But according to a new report, it is the most transparent of any county in northern Illinois.
Tuesday, the Illinois Policy Institute recognized Kane County for a perfect score in its latest round of “online government transparency audits.”
The institute, a nonpartisan organization that describes itself as dedicated to “promoting the principles of liberty,” has for two years audited the websites of hundreds of Illinois’ local governments.
The audit has graded the websites on the availability of a range of information, including contact information, salaries and benefits of elected and administrative officials; dates, times and locations of public meetings; instructions on filing Freedom of Information Act requests; budgets; financial audits; lists of expenditures and bills; contracts; lobbying information; and information on taxation.
Kane County has been audited in each of the past two years, the institute’s report showed.
Last year, the county’s government received a grade of 72 out of a possible 100.
This year, Kane County became the first county to receive a perfect score, said Brian Costin, the Illinois Policy Institute’s director of government reform.
“They called us and asked how they could improve,” Costin said. “We hope more government agencies will be like Kane County.”
Only two other local governments out of 167 audited this year – the villages of Orland Park and Lombard – also received perfect scores, Costin said.
Of the 26 northern Illinois counties surveyed, 20 counties received failing grades. Only DuPage and Lake counties scored grades of “B,” each scoring 86 out of 100.
And only Rock Island, Cook and DeKalb counties were graded higher than “F.”
Costin said for information to be counted, it must be able to be found with easy navigation from the home page. If it can’t be found from the government’s home page, it doesn’t count, he said.
Information that is obtainable by FOIA request but is not posted online is also not counted.
“This is purely proactive online transparency,” Costin said.
He said the biggest shortcoming for most local governments was the lack of any salary or benefit information for public officials on the website.
While public school districts in Illinois are required to list such information, cities, villages and counties are not.
“It’s the information that’s often most in demand, but the one that local governments are most hesitant to post,” Costin said. “Everywhere else it’s like pulling teeth to get people to put up this information.”
Kane County Board Chairman Karen McConnaughay said more information will also be posted in coming months, as the county prepares to scan and electronically archive crates full of old County Board meeting documents “dating back to the 1960s.”