Editorial: Is Hamilton withholding COD records from board opponents?
The Daily Herald Editorial Board
We've been covering local governments in the suburbs for a long time, and from time to time, we've witnessed more than a few political factions that don't get along. In fact, occasionally, we've witnessed some downright crazy things.
But we don't think we've ever seen a case where unhappy board members have resorted to filing Freedom-of-Information Act requests to obtain financial records and other information that any board member should be able to have for the asking. (And especially for basic records that they shouldn't even have to ask to see.)
It's possible our memories are faulty. It's possible there's been a previous case like that and we've somehow forgotten it.
But even so, we doubt very much we've ever come across a case where not only did the unhappy board members file the FOIA requests, but then they were told the requests were too voluminous.
And further, where the unhappy board members were told that if any records ever were released, they may have to pay a fee for them!
Did we mention that occasionally, we've witnessed some downright crazy things?
This is the latest odd story to spill forward from the seemingly endless College of DuPage warehouse of odd stories in the past several months.
Board members Erin Birt and Dianne McGuire, once part of the board majority but now part of a board minority, say that since last spring's election that elevated Kathy Hamilton to chairwoman, they have not received even the basic information they need to fulfill their roles, that financial reports that board members are obligated to review are not made available to them.
For her part, Hamilton has denied that any information has been withheld, but Birt and McGuire do not seem reassured. They became so aggravated, in fact, that they filed the FOIA requests that subsequently were questioned.
Look, we're in no position to know what records and other information Birt and McGuire have or have not received.
But we do know this. Board members ought to have access to almost any documents and records that pertain to the college. How else do they meet their obligations as stewards of the institution?
Hamilton, and the Clean Slate of candidates she endorsed in the election -- Charles Bernstein, Deanne Mazzochi and Frank Napolitano, who all won -- campaigned on the charge that the COD board had failed to provide proper oversight.
This isn't a matter of picking sides. While we might wish both factions on the COD board would work collaboratively, that's probably too much to hope for.
But if proper oversight is the mission, it seems like access to college documents and records -- especially financial ones -- is a fundamental necessity.
It's also a board member's fundamental right.
Even if they disagree on many other things, we hope all the members of the COD board can agree on that.