They're hiding key records from you

A strong majority of Illinois senators, including many from our suburbs, sent Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn a bill Thursday that would make it much more difficult for taxpayers to evaluate the public employees whose salaries they fund.

In a state that is a laughingstock because of its public employee malfeasance, your elected servants keep trying to keep you in the dark.

This is outrageous. Quinn should veto this legislation immediately. Illinois needs light, cleansing light. Its residents need more information to help them monitor their government, not less.

The bill, HB5154, was sponsored by Maywood Democratic state Sen. Kimberly Lightford, Aurora Democratic state Rep. Linda Chapa LaVia and Schaumburg Democratic state Rep. Paul Froehlich, who is not seeking re-election, among others. It would keep secret the evaluations of all public sector workers, including police officers and firefighters.

Late last year, elected officials crowed and patted themselves on the back while approving an improved Freedom of Information Act that was long overdue. Then, within weeks, when they apparently thought you weren't paying attention, they excluded teacher and administrator evaluations from it. Now, three months later, they are excluding other public worker evaluations.

While we understand that it can seem invasive to be a public worker and have your evaluations shared, the truth is that it comes with being a public servant. It also can be immensely helpful.

Had this been law, we could not have learned that Streamwood police officer James Mandarino had a nearly flawless work history before he was charged recently with beating someone.

Transparency, accountability and freedom of information are the very foundations upon which our democracy is based. Keeping these records open allows taxpayers to decide whether their public servants are acting appropriately. Your elected servants don't seem to think you are capable of judging for yourselves.

If the finance officer in your hometown has a history of stealing taxpayer money, if Quinn signs this plan, you might not get the records to prove it. If firefighters host drinking parties in a fire station as has been discovered several times in Chicago, you might not get the records to show it.

These are the suburban senators who voted Thursday to keep you in the dark:

McHenry Republican Pamela Altoff, Grayslake Democrat Michael Bond, Hinsdale Republican Kirk Dillard, Lake Forest Democrat Susan Garrett, Oak Park Democrat Don Harmon, Aurora Democrat Linda Holmes, Park Ridge Democrat Dan Kotowski, Lightford, Waukegan Democrat Terry Link, Carol Stream Republican John Millner and Elgin Democrat Michael Noland. They were joined by Senate President John Cullerton, a Chicago Democrat. Elmhurst Republican Dan Cronin didn't vote, nor did GOP governor nominee Bill Brady of Bloomington.

Those who voted for secrecy should be ashamed. If they think we weren't watching, they are wrong. We will remember this vote. So should you.

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