Calls for increased government transparency at Warren Township High School in Gurnee recently led officials to turn the tables on an activist making the demands.
Lennie Jarratt of Round Lake Beach, a representative of Americans for Prosperity's Illinois branch, made pitches for greater openness by the Warren District 121 officials at meetings Feb. 8 and 22.
Jarratt said some Gurnee-area activists approached Americans for Prosperity to help spark more transparency at Warren. He declined to reveal names when two District 121 board members inquired who in the community sought the group's help.
"Oh, I see," Warren board President John Anderson told Jarratt at the Feb. 8 meeting. "You're transparent, but you're not (transparent)."
Without elaborating, Anderson also called the timing of Jarratt's demand "very odd." School board and other local elections are scheduled for April 5.
Americans for Prosperity is a conservative-leaning government watchdog organization. Jarratt told the District 121 board how the group worked on a bipartisan effort to bring about increased transparency in state government.
In his first appearance, Jarratt asked that Warren start posting an online check register so taxpayers can easily see how public money is spent. Anderson responded that Warren is in the process of putting the register on the district's website.
Jarratt made a return visit at last week's District 121 meeting and spoke during public comment time. He said he found nothing about plans for greater transparency after scouring written meeting minutes from the past year and online audio of board meetings.
Gurnee resident Mark Stoyas eventually stepped to the microphone and defended District 121's elected officials. He said a district outsider such as Jarratt should be upfront about who asked him to visit the board.
"Accountability is a two-way street and not a one-way country road," Stoyas said.
Ken Arnold of Gurnee, a Citizens for Responsible Government watchdog group member, supported Jarratt's push for more openness at District 121. Citizens for Responsible Government monitors taxpayer-funded agencies in the Gurnee area.
"We need to bring a clarity of labeling, a clarity of application, and transparency and honesty in government at all levels," Arnold said.
Americans for Prosperity succeeded in a request for Grayslake Elementary District 46 to start posting an online check journal last year. Jarratt told Warren officials the group is willing to work with them in creating more government openness.