Thursday, February 26, 2009
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Ill. government inspectors want more transparency

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[February 26, 2009]  SPRINGFIELD (AP) -- Illinois lawmakers interested in ethics reform should release the results of their investigations to the public, inspectors who sniff out misconduct in state government said Tuesday.

InsuranceState law requires the findings of most internal investigations to be kept private. But telling the public would battle government secrecy and corruption, inspectors for several constitutional officers told a state ethics overhaul committee.

"It's one thing to knock out corruption, but you also have to change the culture of the institution," said Jim Burns, an inspector for the secretary of state.

Right now, inspectors' hands are tied, said Mary Anderson, a former deputy inspector general for the governor's office. Because state law forces them to keep the reports private, the public has no idea what they've found or how they are handled.

Some states make findings public, including Ohio, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York. Names of employees found innocent of wrongdoing are typically pulled from the public documents.

Illinois should release all reports in the name of transparency instead of cherry picking cases to release, said Gov. Pat Quinn's investigator, James Wright.

The inspectors and other experts also asked the joint ethics committee to change the privacy law by giving them permission to investigate anonymous tips and initiate their own probes. Investigators currently cannot pursue a case without a complaint.

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"One of the ways you can eliminate more people doing the wrong thing is them knowing that somebody was punished for doing it," said Rep. Elizabeth Coulson, R-Glenview "If you don't make it public, everybody just assumes, 'He didn't get in trouble, so now I can do it."'

The 16-member special legislative committee is charged with revamping Illinois ethics laws after the impeachment of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich. Members expect to review the testimony and recommend changes this spring.

[Associated Press; By ANDREA ZELINSKI]

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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