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Public Records, priviliged information? Who has the privilige?

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posted on Oct, 20 2009 @ 05:07 AM
Okay, I was reading the Chicago Tribune, and I noticed an article by Noreen S. Ahmed-Ullah, Tribune reporter, titled, Your government in secret: Public officials are block from information too. So, with the few "Your government in secret," I thought well this sounds juicy.

Before reading, I made sure I couldn't see the bottom of my coffee cup and dove into the world of nicotine induced euphoria at the end of flame. As the smoke blankets the room with the robust aroma of charred tobacco, the plot of the story began to get seedy and disconcerting for those of us that pay taxes and put trust in public officials to do their jobs above board and to maintain an open forum for complaints and questions.

Now some may think that this is an isolated incident, and confined neatly in a little box in one particular region of the country, however, I am beginning to think it is as widespread as cancer in the lymph nodes. This is not isolated, but a birds-eye of the bureaucracy in this country and how political power players control the faucet when it comes to public records. If one wants info they have to go through red tape, bureaucratic road blocks, and follow guidelines before a request is even considered.

Here are some examples from the article that are down-right nefarious and unacceptable in any public body.

During school board meetings in west suburban Hinsdale, an elected official can't veer off the agenda to ask a question. When she asks for documents that aren't readily available, she has to explain why she wants them, and fellow board members can deny her request.

In the village of Island Lake, a trustee must funnel legal questions through the village clerk instead of just asking the village attorney directly. When she posted public documents on her blog, a fellow board member suggested that she figure out if she would rather be a trustee or a "blogmaster."

And last month, a school board member in Lemont nearly got censured -- reprimanded publicly -- for trying to bypass the district superintendent and board president in her efforts to get records.

Now, these are fellow board members requesting information on a particular action by the board and they harassed and insulted for making such a request. So much for transparency, and honest business. To me snipes, like above, are signs of shielding potential fraud, waste, and corruption. God forbid, someone finds out about irregularities and one of the big wigs tasked with oversight and management decisions faces scrutiny. However, if we are not allowed to scrutinize decisions by publicly appointed officials, how are we going to improve our government?

The article should be a wake-up call to all about the government and their seedy disposition to do what it wishes regardless of objections by the citizens and taxpayers. Here is a another disturbing trend from the article that has me fuming after reading it.

The Citizen Advocacy Center, an Elmhurst-based nonprofit community legal group that advocates for democracy, said it has seen an increase in public officials calling with complaints that they're getting locked out.

"Inevitably, someone who is a concerned citizen ends up throwing their hat in the ring to run for public office to effect change," said Terry Pastika, executive director. "But in the last five years, we've been seeing a growing trend of public bodies taking action to squash out board members who are a political minority and make them as ineffective as possible. They may be on the board, but now they're getting shut down."

So, here, we have the use of bullying and strong-arm tactics by those with a political majority on said boards, when requests are made from someone of the minority. What is going on above is the simple task of consolidating power and stifling the opposition into frustration and potential silence.

Here is one more instance that should really frost your caps and it involves a board member and her attempts to investigate perceived irregularities. In her attempts she is ridiculed, blackballed, and silence in performing tasks that are inherently part of her job and a benefit to the tax paying public.

In Hinsdale Township High School District 86, Dianne Barrett, a school board member since 2005 who previously was president of the Clarendon Hills Park District Board, ran into trouble when she started criticizing school officials over what she called "a backdoor referendum" to pay for school improvements and an artificial turf field.

At a board meeting, she described the district's shuffling of money from one fund to another to another with no intentions of repaying it as "money laundering." She felt it wasn't fair for taxpayers to see an increase in taxes but not get a say in the matter. The district spent $2,100 in legal fees to censure her for using that term.

Since then, her questions about the number of complaints filed by parents of special education students and the money spent on legal fees settling those disputes have been met with eye rolls from board members who accuse her of spreading "lies." Her fellow board members have set new procedures that ensure the board sticks to the agenda and prevent a board member from getting documents the majority feels are unnecessary.

"They're trying to tell me what I can say and obstructing me from getting the documents I need to perform my duties as an elected official," Barrett said. "It's not like I'm being a rabble-rouser, but these are public documents."

hopefully this disturbing and unacceptable trend is stifled and eventually stopped with recent action by the state's Attorney General, Lisa Madigan's, office.

The situation could improve after Jan. 1, when changes to the state's public records law will strengthen the ability of the Illinois attorney general's office to hold public bodies accountable for denying access to public records. The law authorizes a public access counselor to mediate disputes over records and makes the counselor's opinions binding, with penalties for noncompliance.

"Public bodies have gotten comfortable with an unenforceable law and have gotten very good at roadblocks, making it brutally difficult to give access to information that the public is entitled to or board members are entitled to," said Attorney General Lisa Madigan's deputy chief of staff, Cara Smith.

So, yes, the story comes out of the corruption capital of the country, the state of Illinois, or so the MSM media would like us to believe. But this type of behavior is everywhere and entrenched. Now, the actions by legal officers is, but, a drop in the bucket if you ask me. The taxpayers have to get involved and fired up about the abuses of power by the political elites, bureaucrats, and government bodies, because if the people don't start raising a stink, this tom-foolery will continue without end. The end result will be skyrocketing taxes aimed at people already pinched by the faltering economy.

[edit on 20-10-2009 by Jakes51]

posted on Oct, 21 2009 @ 02:30 PM
Wow! I am surprised that only one person has read this thread? This is a serious matter, and the dichotomy, of what we are dealing with, when it comes to government agencies.This is just an example of how secrecy is maintained in one particular public body, but I am pretty sure this disturbing trend is nationwide. They want to treat us like mushrooms, feed us crap and keep us in the dark! That is what this story tells me.

What do some of you think about all this tom-foolery by public officials. They think it is okay to run wild with our tax dollars, and the instance an irregularity is discovered, they want to sweep it under the rug as quickly as it is discovered. This is our money they are flushing down the toilet! We have recently experienced waste on a grand scale with the bailout from last year, the stimulus, and now healthcare is on the agenda. Please feel free to comment on this story, and perhaps, emphasize, how it applies to the bigger picture? I look forward to the responses.

[edit on 21-10-2009 by Jakes51]

posted on Oct, 21 2009 @ 05:19 PM
It's a well researched thread and a very thought provoking one too Jakes51.

They say information is power and 'they' just would not be wrong when they say that. The keepers and guardians of information often know and zealously guard it's true wealth both for power and personal gain.

I live in Miami, not really, I live in incorporated North Miami Beach, no not really, I actually live in incorporated Surfside which just happens to sit within incorporated North Miami Beach, which just happens to sit within incorporate Miami which is not to be confused with the incorporated City of Miami which all reside within Miami-Dade County.

A little confusing to be sure but I wanted to demonstrate just not how many cookies there are but how many cookie jars.

More and more incorporated communities are sprouting up within larger cities. Cities within cities and incorporated literally means they are corporations.

School boards, city Alerdermen and Councilmen, Mayors and City Managers, Public Health Trusts, Law enforcement and Emergency Departments, Park and Recreation Departments, Transportation and Water and Sanitation Departments all get their own little slice of the tax payer's money to write checks on, wheel and deal and make the wheels of government turn.

Yet here in Miami the city has hardly had a mayor and very few council members in recent decades where their retirement checks didn't have to be forwarded to them through the Federal Bureau of Prisons to their commisary accounts.

Perhaps that is why so many city and county governments take such great length to keep public records anything but?

[edit on 21/10/09 by ProtoplasmicTraveler]

posted on Oct, 23 2009 @ 02:02 PM
reply to post by ProtoplasmicTraveler

Very good points, Proto! So, my assumptions where right, and that this type of behavior is quite extensive. I am sorry to hear about the misgivings of your local officials. It just boils my blood about how corrupt and nefarious some of these people. In addition to how wasteful they are when to comes to being good stewards of our tax dollars. They waste it like it is a credit card or something!

Then when a concerned citizens raise their voice about perceived irregularities, they get the run around and slowly blackballed into obscurity. It is really a shame! I wish more people would just speak up and bring these misgivings to light. However, I believe many go about their daily activities in a daze. Things aren't all well and good, and a monster lurks in the shadows. I think we are all singing to the choir, because no one wants to hear, and that is frightening.

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