By Jayette Bolinski | Illinois Watchdog
Elected officials should provide as much information as possible to their constituents, Gov. Pat Quinn said Wednesday during questioning by reporters in Chicago about ongoing problems facing Illinois Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr.
“It’s always helpful if you are in elected office, no matter what office, to provide as much information to your constituents and to the people as possible,” Quinn said. “I think that is the way government should be.”
The governor apparently was not referring to his own administration, which this summer refused to turn over texts or emails that would have shed light on the how staffers chose the location of a southern Illinois news conference in July.
Illinois Watchdog in July sought access to communications among Quinn’s staff and others about his July 16 appearance at a Waltonville farm in southern Illinois after rumors abounded that his staff changed the location of the news conference to dodge state workers and families who intended to protest his plan to shutter state facilities.
The governor’s spokeswoman denied the rumors.
Quinn’s Freedom of Information officer, Benno Weisberg, withheld 10 emails in their entirety, citing the state open-records law’s “preliminary drafts” exemption that allows them to keep secret anything that expresses opinions or recommendations.
He later found five additional emails, which were released. Three simply contained the text of news articles about Quinn’s appearance that were emailed among his staffers. A fourth was a redacted invitation from the governor’s office to a local public official to attend the news conference.
The fifth was an apparent email exchange that was released under FOIA with every word blacked out – including the location of the event, even though the address was provided prior to the news conference so reporters could show up, as well as dates and times of the emails and the names of the senders and recipients.
Indeed, Illinoisans deserve as much information as possible from their government and elected officials. Quinn, a longtime champion of open government, should set a better example for the rest.
Quinn’s comments Wednesday were made after he attended the dedication of a road project in Downers Grove in suburban Chicago. A reporter pressed him about whether Jackson owes Illinoisans an explanation for why he has been unable to tend to his job in Congress the past four months.