In his re-election campaign last year, Whiteside County Board member Gene Jacoby pushed for openness.
In a statement in our newspaper, he wrote: "As elected officials, we have a responsibility to serve our citizens in Whiteside County. Sometimes this means discussing issues with people at football games, gas stations or grocery stores. Our residents have the right to expect honest and forthright answers."
I assume this same philosophy applies to Jacoby's role as an elected trustee for Coloma Township, a position he has held for more than 35 years.
Lately, people have questioned what's going on with Coloma Township's troubled finances. So I called Jacoby and left a message. No return call.
I called again. Same result. A few more times. Still no success.
A couple of weeks ago, I approached him after a Coloma meeting to ask a question about the finances. He got up from his seat and told me "no comment" repeatedly.
Where are those "honest and forthright answers"?
Heck, I'm willing to accommodate his schedule. I'll meet him anywhere – a football game, a gas station, a grocery store, you name it.
This is a time for answers.
A quick rundown:
Since 2009, Coloma hasn't published an annual finance report on the state comptroller's website. That makes it the only entity in Whiteside County, including the 21 other townships, out of compliance. The township has been late publishing its financial report in the newspaper, resulting in the county withholding more than $400,000 in property tax revenue at one point.
Even when the township finally has printed its reports in the paper, they include obvious mistakes. Many revenue and expense numbers include the same exact amounts year after year.
One trustee, Peggy McFadden, concedes the finances are a mess, and the auditor has been working for months on the project. In a recent tearful interview, township Supervisor Debra Burke, who handles the finances, admitted she wasn't good at math.
Another trustee, Mary Ann Richardson, said she is looking into the matter, while the newest one, Walter Neal, appointed just 2 weeks ago, is too new to speak to the issues.
So we're left with Jacoby, who has been around for decades.
What happened, Gene?
We know from meeting minutes that, in the last couple of years, Jacoby pushed the purchase of monogrammed jackets for all township officials and employees, as well as a plaque with all of the current and former trustees' names.
Those ideas sailed through.
He also urged the board to develop a flag to commemorate the township.
That appeared to go nowhere.
He also joined the board in approving thousands of dollars for schools and other groups.
Although Jacoby has no legal obligation to speak to reporters, I would like to hear from him.
David Giuliani is a news editor for Sauk Valley Media. You can reach him at dgiuliani@saukvalley or 800-798-4085, ext. 525.