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Let new leaders be committed to transparency

Key government positions in Whiteside and Lee counties changed hands this week. We hope the changes bring a renewed commitment to government transparency.

Published: Friday, Dec. 7, 2012 1:15 a.m. CDT

Elections bring about change. Whether that change will be for the better is not guaranteed.

However, we are generally optimistic that new leaders in Whiteside and Lee counties will support government transparency on the county boards and in the state’s attorney’s offices.

One bump in the road happened last week. Democratic Whiteside County Board members held what we believe was an illegal closed meeting to discuss their next chairman. We filed a complaint with the Illinois Attorney General’s office and await a response.

On Monday, Whiteside County Board members elected Jim Duffy, D-Sterling, to be their new chairman.

The same day, Lee County Board members chose Rick Ketchum, D-Amboy, as their new chairman.

Duffy, 61, replaces Tony Arduini, 91, a Rock Falls Democrat who was chairman for more than two decades.

Ketchum, 62, replaces Jim Seeberg, 80, an Ashton Republican who also was chairman for many years.

As Duffy and Ketchum settle into their new roles, we encourage them to embrace the spirit and letter of the law regarding open government records – specifically the Illinois Open Meetings Act and Illinois Freedom of Information Act.

We were encouraged by Ketchum’s decision to conduct an orientation of sorts for all Lee County Board members on Monday. He invited county department heads to make short presentations to inform board members of their activities, and he presented board members with binders containing county budget information.

That was a good idea.

We believe seminars that detail open government laws also would be beneficial to board members. 

Further, we encourage the new state’s attorneys to embrace the spirit of open government. Trish Joyce became Whiteside County state’s attorney on Monday. Her Lee County counterpart, Anna Sacco-Miller, also took office the same day.

State’s attorneys are called upon to advise county boards on all sorts of issues, including compliance with open government laws. In that regard, we believe the track records of the outgoing state’s attorneys left something to be desired.

We encourage Joyce and Sacco-Miller to become well-acquainted with the Open Meetings Act and Freedom of Information Act so they can provide their boards with accurate and timely advice.

Good luck to these new leaders. The public has every expectation that they will do their jobs well. So do we.

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