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posted: 11/13/2012 5:00 AM

Editorial: Naperville's failure of transparency

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The Daily Herald Editorial Board

When will government leaders understand that transparency is your best defense? Lack of it builds mistrust.

That's what Naperville City Manager Doug Krieger should be reflecting on after Daily Herald writer Justin Kmitch reported last week on a secret consulting contract Krieger and the city entered into last spring with retiring police chief David Dial.

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Heck, not only were taxpayers unaware of the extra $50,000 paid to Dial from just after his retirement date in May until Aug. 18, but so were city council members and Mayor George Pradel. Why the secrecy, Mr. Krieger? We're still waiting on that answer.

What he did offer was a defense for wanting Dial, after 22 years at the helm, to help in the transition to Police Chief Bob Marshall, the former assistant city manager who had 27 years of experience in the Naperville Police Department.

"Obviously anyone who has spent 22 years in the department has tremendous institutional knowledge," Krieger said of Dial. "Based on what we had coming up in the summer, including NATO, the filling of key police department management positions and, most importantly, our accreditation, I absolutely felt it best to utilize his knowledge and relationships for both the police department and city as a whole during that time."

Great reasons to have a good discussion prior to the contract being signed. Given Marshall's experience in the city and the police department, we think that was a debate worth having. There is no wrongdoing here -- Krieger has the authority to sign off on expenses of up to $100,000 without city council approval. But it flies in the face of transparency and accountability.

"He's correct that he certainly got it done within his power, but he should have at least given us a heads-up," said Councilman Paul Hinterlong. "What's so secretive about it that we couldn't be notified and brought up to speed?"

Councilman Doug Krause was even more upset: "I'm completely blindsided by this, and when I do Krieger's review, I'm going to make sure he knows I don't appreciate being blindsided."

Others on the council say they don't see anything wrong with the contract or how it was handled.

We disagree with that sentiment. As an editorial board, this is an issue we have tackled many times. It bears repeating. As we said in August on this topic, only when our government leaders emphasize the importance of transparency in all they do will taxpayers truly benefit.

We urge Naperville leaders, especially Krieger and those elected officials who find no fault with this secret deal, to rethink the policy and the thought processes that allowed this to happen.

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