by Mark Cavers
In the wake of allegations that the city of Dixon's comptroller stole over $53 million from the city, the Institute is working with Republicans in the Illinois Senate to pass legislation that will prevent this kind of fraud from happening elsewhere.
This morning, Brian Costin, the Institute's Director of Government Reform, stood with State Sens. Dan Duffy, Darin LaHood and Kyle McCarter to introduce a bill requiring local governments to post their checkbooks, audits and budgets online. The bill, an offshoot of legislation that the Institute has been pushing for the past two years, would empower citizens and help them hold their government accountable. With easy access to this information, citizens would have been able to catch the fraud earlier, or even prevent it from happening in the first place. Brian points this very fact out:
“After seeing how little public information is available on Dixon’s website, it’s no surprise that the alleged theft went under the radar for so long. What Dixon and the entire state must do now is create a culture of transparency and accountability. This will help weed out corruption, and restore the public’s faith in local government.”
The bill being promoted by Sens. Duffy, McCarter, Bivins and LaHood would do exactly this. It would protect taxpayers by opening up government so they can truly see how their money is being spent. Sen. Duffy likens it to a security camera at a 7-11.
“Just like a 7-11 or a corner convenience store has a security camera in the corner, this bill is going to be the security camera for local governments. This is going to highlight what’s been happening within their government, how they’ve been spending their money, what they’ve been doing with their budgets.”
The Institute will continue to work with anyone who is interested in promoting legislation like Senate Bill 3392 that increase transparency, helps residents keep their governments accountable and see how their money is being spent. Transparency like this offers a simple, effective, low-cost tool to put the government back on track and into the hands of citizens.
In addition to legislative efforts aimed at increasing transparency, the Institute is also working directly with the city of Dixon and hundreds of governments across the state to become more transparent through the local transparency project.