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Our View: Separation agreements should be public

Published: Thursday, April 17, 2014 10:32 p.m. CDT • Updated: Friday, April 18, 2014 8:50 a.m. CDT

When it comes to public money, nothing should be kept a secret.

That’s not always the case, obviously, so we applaud state Rep. Renee Kosel and the Illinois House for passing legislation that promotes more transparency in government.

House Bill 3664 amends the Illinois Freedom of Information Act to forbid any public body from imposing confidentiality as a condition of receiving any severance agreement funded in part or in whole with public money. There is an exception to protect a trade secret, proprietary information or information that is otherwise exempt from disclosure under FOIA.

Kosel, R-New Lenox, filed the bill in response to Metra’s refusal last year to reveal details about the generous severance package – projected to be up to $718,000 – it gave to former CEO Alex Clifford.

Lawmakers in the House last week passed the bill unanimously, 106-0.

This bill is the latest step in shining light for the public on severance agreements and employment contracts for public employees. For years, many public bodies would try to keep employment contracts or separation agreements private.

The Illinois Supreme Court has ruled that public employee contracts are public record and can not be withheld under FOIA’s personal privacy exemption. Separation agreements should be included as well.

We’re not sure why government continues to try and keep taxpayers in the dark regarding public money and public business. We are happy, however, that lawmakers have taken notice and are working toward better transparency in government.

House Bill 3664 has moved to the state Senate, where we hope lawmakers in the Senate follow the lead of their colleagues in the House and pass this bill.

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