Editorial: Public contracts merit public scrutiny - even on entertainment
Convention centers, show venues and entertainment districts play an important role in enriching the quality of life throughout the suburbs. Public bodies that appreciate and foster that role deserve credit and applause. But that doesn't exempt them from the most fundamental obligations of open government, including providing taxpayers with financial information about them.
For that reason, we -- and we hope all good-government advocates -- have watched with interest as a lawsuit against the village of Rosemont made its way through the courts. The suit, brought by the Better Government Association in 2015, sought financial information from Rosemont about entertainment contracts at venues the village owns. Rosemont authorities attempted to withhold the information, claiming it was exempted from Freedom of Information Act requirements because releasing it would be tantamount to divulging "trade secrets."
It's a philosophical argument that's hard to get off the ground, somehow suggesting that the dealings governments have with entertainment contractors are different from all the many other types of contracts they enter into. The argument we see is simple and more persuasive. The public's money is the public's money, and the public ought to be able to thoroughly monitor how it is spent.
Thankfully, an appellate court agreed in June that that is the foundation of Illinois law on Freedom of Information, and insisted that only the legislature can carve out exceptions. "(The) legislature expressly stated its intent that only State statutes may create additional restrictions on disclosure of information," the appellate court wrote, and the state Supreme Court effectively endorsed that opinion when it refused last week to hear the village's appeal.