MEDIA CONTACT: Diana Rickert
Diana@IllinoisPolicy.org or (312) 607-4977
10 Peoria-area municipalities fail government transparency audit
City of Peoria receives only non-failing grade
Peoria, Ill. (April 11, 2012) – Ten out of eleven government agencies in the Peoria-area received failing grades in an online transparency audit conducted by local citizen activists and the Illinois Policy Institute.
Members of the Peoria 9/12 group worked with the Institute to grade local government websites on how much public data is readily available. Dubbed “The Local Transparency Project,” grades are based on the availability to the public of vital community information, such as public meeting schedules, government employee salaries and tax rates. Since the project was launched by the Institute in February 2010, more than 130 government entities have been graded.
In the Peoria area, websites for the following government entities were graded: Peoria, Pekin, East Peoria, Washington, West Peoria, Morton, Dunlap, Peoria Heights, Bartonville, North Pekin and Hanna City. Of these municipalities, only the city Peoria received a passing grade in the audit. Peoria’s city website received a score of 66.8 percent – a D. The average score of all governments graded in the Peoria area was only 35.1 percent.
The scores given to Peoria area governments are some of the lowest in the state.
“We are very disappointed in the lack of transparency on Peoria area websites. We even extended the normal duration of our project to accommodate website improvements, which were promised but never occurred.” said Brian Costin, director of government reform at the nonpartisan Illinois Policy Institute. "Residents in the Peoria area deserve better transparency and accountability on how their tax dollars are spent.”
For democracy to work, citizens need access to the information about what government does. Proactive transparency is the best way to educate society about the actions of government and keep voters informed. That’s why the Local Transparency Project grades public agencies on the availability of the following information: elected and administrative officials; public meetings; how to file a Freedom of Information Act request; budgets; audits; expenditures; salaries and benefits; contracts, lobbying; and taxing levels.
“People are more interested than ever to know if our local government agencies are being good stewards of our tax dollars,” said Bill Lopotko, a Peoria resident and volunteer with the transparency project. “With a site that is designed after the Illinois Policy Institute’s 10-Point Transparency Checklist, city residents and taxpayers will be able to better determine if city government is effective, competent and frugal with our tax dollars."
Although many of the municipalities improved their scores, the improvements were not substantial enough to warrant more passing grades. Citizen activists involved in the project said the municipal governments should strive for higher scores.
“While I am very pleased to see that my home town, Pekin, has improved their score from 34 percent to 58 percent, there's still lots of room for improvement,” said Sheila Devall, a Pekin resident and transparency volunteer.
A full list of scores are published below:
*Rounded to nearest 1/10th of a point. The following municipalities did not have websites to grade as of February 21, 2012: Bellevue, Brimfield, Mapleton, Metamora, Norwood, Speer.
Full scoring details linked here (Google spreadsheet).
Local Transparency Project links