SPRINGFIELD - Two weeks ago, the transparency group "For the Good of Illinois" filed a lawsuit to get information from State Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka's office detailing the state's checkbook. The Springfield Journal Register's picked up the call to open the state's checkbook. Comptroller Topinka responded to the SJR in an op-ed Wednesday, defending what her critics allege is her not-detailed-enough Ledger website:
In recent weeks some have suggested (“Topinka should provide state’s checkbook,” Jan. 17) that as comptroller, I should also produce a “state checkbook” that documents every dime taxed and spent by Illinois government. In fact, that information request to our office asked for a “complete data dump” of state financial records.
But the state database tracking revenues and expenditures includes confidential information that the law prohibits from being given out — things like Social Security numbers and information about tax refunds, public aid and foster care payments, worker’s comp and unemployment checks. A “complete data dump” would be illegal.
That is why last year I launched the Ledger, which makes public every state transaction that is allowable under the law. Specifically, the Ledger allows taxpayers to click their way through everything from the state’s daily receipts and bill backlog numbers to state agency budgets, contracts and expenses. The site also contains a state employee database, allowing taxpayers to view all public salaries and new hires.
The whole issue was raised when For the Good of Illinois' Adam Andrzejewski filed a lawsuit to require the Comptroller's office to answer a FOIA in the same in depth manner they received checkbook information from the City of Chicago and numerous state universities.
In a press conference on the lawsuit, Andrzejewski listed several reasons why Topinka's "Ledger" website, including the fact that Attorney General Lisa Madigan had signed off on thousands of dollars in travel reimbursement for a staff member to travel to work from Michigan.
The Andrzejewski press conference video produced by Illinois Channel was posted on Illinois Review two weeks ago HERE.