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Thursday, Oct. 23, 2014 12:01 am

Sunshine on Sangamon County

Tony DelGiorno.
PHOTO FROM TONYDELGIORNO.COM
Politics and corruption are two words that are all too often found together, especially in Illinois. While we have laws meant to protect whistleblowers who point out legitimate problems, most remain fearful for their jobs if they were to shine a light on a dark corner.

Since I was elected to the county board in 2012, anonymous letters were sent to board members and the media on four separate occasions. These letters complained of alleged wrongdoing by county officials. County Board Chairman Andy VanMeter and County Administrator Brian McFadden commented on a radio program that these allegations cannot be investigated unless the accuser is willing to come forward.

As a member of the Employee Services Committee, I asked that information about the Illinois whistleblower law, as well as the county’s own whistleblower ordinance, be distributed annually to all county employees, and upon beginning of employment for new hires.  

Since the committee took no official action to direct the Office of Human Resources to do this, I think it’s time for the county to follow the lead of the City of Springfield, and perhaps should even partner with the city, in forming the Springfield and Sangamon Office of Inspector General.  

Aldermen Cory Jobe and Doris Turner have led the charge on the city council to form an Office of Inspector General to investigate allegations of wrongdoing, like those raised in the letters sent to county board members, and root out corruption in our local government. The county can and should do the same. And, as we’ve done in the past, the county and city could partner together to establish and fund the office.

This is not a political issue. This is a good government issue. And it’s a public trust issue. Our government only works if we can trust our elected officials and public servants to manage our community affairs effectively and efficiently.

That’s why, win or lose in my re-election on Nov. 4, I will propose a resolution at the next county board meeting to appoint a three-member panel of the county board to initiate negotiations with the city to bring the Office of Inspector General to both local governments.  This cost-sharing approach will save the taxpayers of the city and county while investigating corruption and wrongdoing that will lead to a more effective government and result in a better community for all of us.

The late Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas remarked, “Sunlight is the best disinfectant.” Establishing a mechanism by which both county and city governments can let the sunshine in and review allegations of wrongdoing with an independent inspector general is not something that our leaders should fear. They should embrace it.  Because there shouldn’t be anything to hide.

Tony DelGiorno is the representative for County Board District 22.

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