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MCC to post more FOIA information; transparency initiatives targeted

Published: Saturday, June 15, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

CRYSTAL LAKE – New Freedom of Information Act policies at McHenry County College will give residents online access to requests the college receives and responses it gives to those seeking information.

Starting in June, the college will publish a monthly report of all FOIA requests it receives, the outcome of the requests and how much staff time it required. New board member Chris Jenner said it is a step in the right direction, but he hopes to expand it with proposals he plans to make at Monday’s Policy Committee meeting.

Jenner said he would like to see FOIA reporting similar to the Illinois State Board of Education, where links to the actual request and written response also are available and not just numbers of requests and denials.

“I’d like them to go that far,” he said of McHenry County College. “But right now, they are not reporting anything, so I consider this a start.”

Transparency has been a main focus for Jenner, who comes from the Cary School District 26 board, where he said public access to information was excellent. Jenner said he would like to mimic District 26’s website and get McHenry County College to online publish contracts of more than $25,000 and a check registry that shows all the checks the college writes.

While some of those goals could take time to implement, he said he would like to see an immediate fix to the lack of contact information. The MCC website shows only pictures and term lengths of trustees and no email or phone number information.

“That’s one thing that has been a real big personal issue with me,” he said. “How is anyone supposed to contact us?”

One of the most difficult policy changes some board members want to make does not involve communication with the public, but communication with college staff.

Jenner, along with board President Ron Parrish and Trustee Tom Wilbeck, pushed to remove the “conduit” responsibilities of the president to open communication between staff and trustees. They argued that if trustees want to know more about a program, they should be able to speak directly with staff and staff should be able to directly with trustees about ideas or concerns they may have.

Opponents on the board, including Policy Committee Chairwoman Cynthia Kisser, said the president is the best way to gather and disperse information for both sides because she is in consistent communication with both groups.

“I don’t know about this week, but it’s going to come up and it is going to be discussed,” Jenner said of opening communication with faculty. “To me, it rails against free speech. Information shouldn’t be filtered.”

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