Transparency is often a difficult term for public officials. Many campaign on a platform of openness but often get skittish when it comes time to actually practice what they preach on the stump.
In Illinois, for example, we have been very critical of efforts at the state level to limit transparency laws created in the wake of the George Ryan-Rod Blagojevich double whammy of corruption.
Working for the public is different from working in the private sector. Taxpayers have a right to know how their tax money is being spent, and they shouldn't have to work hard at finding out.
This is true at the federal, state and local levels. So while we have criticized state legislators for exempting certain public records, we must congratulate officials when they at least try to do the right thing.
Lombard Trustee Peter Breen, elected last April, proposed an 11-part website transparency policy last week that we believe has merit in the Lilac Village and other suburbs. Among the points that got the most discussion was posting the name and exact salary of every village employee.
We agree with Trustee Zachary Wilson, who said: "I'm actually for full disclosure. I think that (for) every employee that is paid by tax dollars, there ought to be an exact amount."
Other proposals suggest posting gross yearly wages and overtime payments by job title, but not by name or listing salaries for all positions in $25,000 increments as part of the annual treasurer's report.
That is not transparency. We are disappointed in Trustee Keith Giagnorio, who said, "I don't think people are too concerned about who makes what."
Yes, they are. And, yes, we agree with him that residents also want the village to maintain good police and fire departments, fix potholes and plow streets. It's just not an either-or situation.
Lombard village staff said they are concerned about identity theft if the public can readily put together a name and salay. We recommend the village research that issue more. Whatever is made available, however, should be easy to understand and easy to find.
Lombard residents who feel strongly about this should talk to village board members, as the proposal will be discussed again Sept. 15. Let your thoughts be known.
Also included in the website transparency policy are proposals to add the village's checkbook register and credit card expenditures; benefits paid to village employees; names of any lobbying associations the village funds; and applications and application procedures for all building permits and zoning variances.
We applaud Lombard for taking on this all-encompassing approach and urge the board to embrace openness when finalizing the policy.
And we urge other suburbs to follow suit.