Chicago Tribune Editorial Board: The Burden of Transparency - abused loophole lets officials withhold too much public data from Illinois citizens 9_burden_of_transparency

January 25, 2013 04:19 PM




Nine months ago, the nonprofit For the Good of Illinois asked the Illinois comptroller’s office for a line-by-line accounting of state spending for 2011. The group wants to post an online "checkbook" for public review at its website,

It’s still waiting.

CEO Adam Andrzejewski, a Republican candidate for governor in 2010, says the group requested similar records, some dating back to 2001, from the city of Chicago and all of the state’s public colleges, universities and school districts. All except the state comptroller complied.

Illinois law says the records are public. But it also says a government body can be excused from releasing them if doing so is "unduly burdensome." Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka says it would take many staffers many hours to review, redact and assemble the records requested by For the Good of Illinois.

The state attorney general’s public access counselor, which mediates such disputes, agrees.

That’s a tough argument to swallow in this digital age. A computer — and a teenager — could make short work of that request, right? Andrzejewski thinks Topinka is hiding something. He’s taking her to court.

For the Good of Illinois’ goal is to post "every dime" spent by all 7,000-plus units of government in Illinois. That would be a nifty public resource.

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