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A chance for greater transparency missed : Editorials : Oswego Ledger-Sentinel : Hometown Newspaper for Oswego and Montgomery, Illinois
A chance for greater transparency missed

The Oswegoland Park District Board has rejected a request from our reporter, Lyle R. Rolfe, to release the names of the 13 people who filed applications with the park district in December to fill a vacant seat on the board.

In addition to providing the park district with their names and addresses, the applicants were also asked to provide a letter of interest. The board reviewed the applicant letters and then voted unanimously last month to approve the appointment of Adam Sheinkopf of NaAuSay Township to the vacant seat.

Following the board's vote, Park Board President Bob Mattingly declined a request from Rolfe to release the names of all the three 13 candidates or at least the three chosen by the board as finalists. Mattingly, however, said the board had agreed not to disclose the names.

"They felt that the others lost so they decided not to release them," he said.

Mattingly, however, did say of the 13 applications three were women and two of the women were among the finalists considered by the board.

We're puzzled and disappointed by the board's decision not to release the names of all 13 applicants. A seat on the park district board is a public office. Certainly in submitting their applications and letters of interest to the park district the 13 applicants did so with the expectation that at, some point, their identities might be made public.

Had the 13 applicants sought election to the board they would have had to publicly circulate petitions to have their names placed before voters. They also would have been subject to questioning as to their positions on issues before the park district by the Ledger-Sentinel and interested voters prior to election day. But by choosing to keep the names of the applicants and the selection process a secret, the park district now invites speculation as to who applied and what their intentions were in making their final selection.

Over the past several years candidates for public office at all levels have talked-up the need for increased transparency in government. Releasing the names of those who applied to represent the park district's taxpayers on the agency's board would have been an obvious gesture for greater public transparency. It's a shame board members chose to keep the applicants' names and their selection process out of public view.

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