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Article updated: 7/16/2013 12:57 PM

Hoffman Estates Park District improves transparency on website

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The Hoffman Estates Park District has added a new link on its website sending users directly to a page dedicated to Freedom of Information Act and transparency information.

Executive Director Dean Bostrom said the district created the link following a July 10 Daily Herald story regarding the transparency of suburban governments. According to the story, an audit conducted by the Illinois Policy Institute gave the park district a score of 25.8 percent out of 100 percent when it comes to transparency.

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The institute, a nonpartisan research organization that promotes transparent government, bases scores off 10 categories, including contact information for elected officials; meeting information; instructions for Freedom of Information Act requests; salaries and benefits; budgets; financial reports; expenditures; union contracts; vendor contracts; and taxes and fees. Bostrom said he believes the institute didn't do a fair assessment of the website, but the district added the link to make information easier to find.

The information can now be found by clicking the "General Information" tab on the park district's home page and selecting "FOIA & Transparency Center." The page has links to information for every category the institute uses to score transparency.

"We didn't have to add any information (last week)," Bostrom said. "We just had to rearrange the information."

Bostrom said the park district has reached out to Illinois Policy Institute to ask if the website can be scored again, but they haven't heard back from the organization.

"Apparently we didn't have (the information) where they wanted it," he said. "It was just a navigation issue."

The Illinois Policy Institute began its transparency audit of 300 units of government in 2010, which Bostrom said could have led to the low scoring.

"Maybe we didn't have all this stuff (in 2010)," he said.

Brian Costin, the Illinois Policy Institute's director on government reform, said he has not heard from the park district in the last week. After taking a quick look at changes on the park district's website, however, he said it is obvious they had made some improvements from July 2010.

Two categories of information Costin quickly found Monday that weren't available on the website at the time the institute first scored the park district included lobbying and taxes and fees. Having all the information available by clicking one link also is an improvement, Costin said.

"That's certainly one step in making it more user-friendly so citizens can quickly find more information. I would definitely commend them on that," he said.

Costin said the institute is willing to rescore any government agency that requests it and that the new score could be available in less than a week.

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