By Kathryn Menue
BOONE COUNTY –Transparency is the state of being open and candid.
The Illinois Policy Institute conducted an audit in 2012 to see which counties in Illinois were actually fully transparent with the residents of their county. The audit information can be found online at:
The study found that out of 26 counties studied, only six received a passing grade, leaving twenty counties, including Boone County, with failing grades.
According to the audit, Boone County scored only 38.1 percent on transparency in the first audit and 47.6 percent on the second audit. Although Boone County improved, the county still received a failing grade on being open and candid with residents.
‘“Proactive government transparency is one of the most important tools we have to help prevent, expose and put an end to government corruption,” Brian Costin, director of government reform at the Illinois Policy Institute, said. “In light of the high levels of corruption in northern Illinois, it is surprising that many county governments are not doing more to provide basic financial and participatory information to their citizens online.”’
The Illinois Policy Institute conducted these audits on transparency to help improve small town governmentsrun more efficiently with the support of the public. The public needs access to the right information to remainwell-versed, so they can work with government officials to improve communities.
“For democracy to work, citizens need access to the information about what government does,” Mindy Ruckman, of Illinois Policy Institute wrote in an article entitled: “Local Transparency Project (” “Proactive transparency is the best way to educate society about the actions of government.”
In order for local governments, like Boone County, to become more efficient in the transparency process, they should adopt 10 key steps to become more transparent.
1. Contact Information
According to Illinois Policy, elected officials must be available to the public. In order for counties, like Boone County to be more transparent, they should have online contact lists, cataloging all of the elected officials, all department heads, and all senior administrators’ names, phone numbers, and email addresses.
Although Boone County has a very informative website, they still lack some of this key information, such as providing email addresses for all parties, instead of just listing a universal, department email.
For instance, the Boone County Board only lists addresses and phone numbers for elected officials as seen on their website at:
“Officials are elected to represent their constituents. In order to do so effectively they should be engaged in regular dialogue and be as accessible as possible by providing a variety of ways to be contacted,” Ruckman wrote in her article, “10-Point Transparency Checklist.”
2. Public Meetings
“Citizens should have the knowledge of when an elected body meets and what issues they will be voting on so they can be informed and engaged in the democratic process,” Ruckman added.
Websites should include the year’s meetings’ schedule, agendas and board packets posted to the web at least 72 hours ahead of the meeting, meeting minutes for the past five years, and board packets for the past five years as well.
Boone County has kept records of the meetings, but has come into trouble occasionally with not posting before the 72 hour deadline.
Past meeting agendas can be seen on the board’s website at:, while upcoming meetings can be viewed on the website at:
By keeping track of the meetings online, citizens can become involved in the governing process.
3. Public Records
Everyone has the right to be involved with local government, which is why anyone can submit a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to their local government.
The Boone County Board has information on sending a request on their website at: More information can be found at the attorney general’s office website at:
However, the county only has information on where the FOIA requests can be mailed, whereas they should have an email address available for citizens to submit FOIA requests online as well.
4. Budgets
The boards should include detailed budgets in a “searchable format” for the past five years on their website.
Boone County does list budget information from 2008 to the present which can be viewed on their website at:
5. Audits
Boone County did well in this category as well. Boone County does list the audits from 2008 to the present, which can be viewed on their website at:
6. Expenditures
Listing expenditures online allows for the public to view where exactly their taxpayer money goes.
Boone County lists current union contracts with the county ranging from Animal Services to the Treasurers union, which can be viewed on their website at:
7. Compensation
According to the Illinois Policy Institute, citizens should have access to wage records so they know where “their taxpayer money is being spent.”
Boone County does do well in this category too. On their website, anyone can view what each public official/government entities’ wage under their Financial Information records at:
8. Contracts
County websites should include proposals and bidding opportunities, instructions on how to submit a bid, approved vendor contracts for more than $25,000, individual employee contracts, and collective bargaining contracts.
Boone County does list bidding proposal information, contracts and planning information at:
9. Lobbying
County websites should post contracts that disclose the value and purpose of lobbying efforts for the past five years and statements that the government does not engage in lobbying or pay dues to taxpayer-funded lobbying organizations.
However, Boone County does not discuss any lobbying information on their main website at:
10. Taxes
Government websites should disclose tax rates for major revenue sources, which Boone County does share on their website.
To locate such tax information, residents would have to go through the Boone County treasurer’s office website at: or contact the department directly at (815) 544-2666.
By going through the 10 step-process, residents can see that the Boone County Board is transparent in several ways, but still needs improvement in some areas.
However, the Boone County Board only accounts for one of the boards that govern the people. This list does not include township/village boards or even some of the government departments that aid in the decision-making process for Boone County citizens.
Although this list does not include the other governing bodies of Boone County, residents can still monitor the transparency of all of Boone County by following the Illinois Policy Institute’s Transparency Checklist.
The Checklist is available for viewing at the Illinois Policy Institute’s website at:

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