The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

Opinion

February 6, 2014

Open tentative contracts to public scrutiny

Gov. Pat Quinn, in his State of the State address Wednesday, described his initiatives for jobs, education, and the economy.

In a speech delivered 5 years to the day after he assumed office from disgraced former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, Quinn briefly mentioned the ethical woes he inherited back then.

“First, we restored integrity to state government, passing a strong new ethics code, campaign finance reform and a new constitutional amendment to allow voters to recall any governor guilty of corruption,” the governor said.

That sentence amounted to Quinn’s only reference, such as it was, to governmental openness and accountability in Illinois.

We believe more work needs to be done.

One area where greater openness is needed deals with contracts negotiated through collective bargaining between public employee unions and units of government, such as school districts, cities, and the like.

Currently, units of government believe they are not required to release such contracts until after they have been approved.

After a tentative agreement is reached, negotiators for both sides usually take the stance that it’s none of the public’s business what the contract contains. The taxpayers who foot the bill traditionally aren’t allowed to see it until the union members ratify it and the board or council casts its vote in the affirmative.

Such a closed, clubby process sticks in our craw.

After all, the need for secrecy — if one even recognizes that need — no longer exists after a tentative contract is reached. The negotiating has ended, and neither side can gain an advantage from disclosure.

That’s why we believe legislation filed last year by state Rep. Jeanne Ives, a Republican from Wheaton, is sorely needed.

Ives’ bill would require all newly negotiated contracts between unions and public-sector employers (school districts, cities, counties, the state, etc.) to be posted on the public body’s website for at least 14 days before any action is taken.

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Poll

With the Clinton County Justice Coordinating Commission and the Clinton County Board of Supervisors discussing proposals to construct a new jail, do you think the time has come for Clinton County to construct such a facility?

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