2018-07-11 / Opinion

How To Avoid Glenview’s Party-Hearty Embarrassment

Other Editors Say...

For those who work in government, spending taxpayer money should be an exercise in penny-pinching and caution. It’s that simple.

That’s why we’re continually gobsmacked by public officials who just don’t get it.

The latest offenders: employees, administrators and elected officials in Glenview, (Ill).

A recent Pioneer Press review of three years of expenses on village-issued credit cards found roughly $504,000 in purchases that included parties, dinners and travel– and a lack of transparency documenting it.

Hundreds of meal purchases failed to include required information, including the reason for the expense and who benefited.

And get this: When a reporter asked the village finance director about the expenditures, she replied: “I’d say it is what it is. I don’t have a comment on that.”

Mayor Jim Patterson was nonchalant. “So far you haven’t knocked my socks off yet. I think they’re all within reason.”

Roughly $36,000 spent on food, with more than $10,000 of that at Wildfire, an upscale steakhouse. Approximately $44,000 on hotel stays. About $35,000 on parking and transportation.

About $4,400 spent on retirement and holiday parties. Hundreds of dollars toward pizza and Portillo’s with little explanation.

At one gathering at a bar that included beer, wine and liquor, the village manager charged the expense to taxpayers.

No, we’re not prudes. But it should be common sense to put certain expenses on your personal credit card, starting with the Jameson Irish Whiskey.

The Pioneer Press report is an addition to the many disclosures of frivolous spending at all levels of government, from Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson’s $31,000 dining set to Lake in the Hills trustees spending $577 on valet parking for a conference last fall.

And the six Addison officials at the same conference who dined at Carmine’s on Rush Street and gulped top shelf liquor.

And the 11 Hanover Park officials who ordered a seafood tower and Chateaubriand at Smith & Wollensky and charged it to taxpayers.

Really. If you want to draw attention to your garishness, order the most expensive steak and the seafood tower. It’s a sure bet.

We know that elected officials in most communities serve on a near-volunteer basis. They assume significant responsibility for littleto no pay.

Because public service is a commitment.

That’s why unexplained spending on flights, conferences, training, hotels and meals charged to taxpayers draw so much scrutiny: Unless an expense can be linked to a benefit for constituents, it looks like a frolic with Other People’s Money.

So here’s a swell suggestion (no charge) to public officials: Be honest about entertainment and junket spending. Put the expenditures in your annual budgets.

Explain to anyone who asks that there’s value in these experiences– and thus in these expenses.

In other words, public officials, step into the sunshine.

Let critics argue with you, if they must, about the propriety of a dinner bill. But deprive them of the accusation that you’re secretive, sneaky, unaccountable.

Make reasonable decisions and own them.

If you won’t do that in order to be forthright, do it because any citizen’s freedom of information request can expose every penny of your spending.

Spend on the sly, though, and you leave your constituents asking the questions now ricocheting through Glenview: How much of the credit card purchases during the three-year period examined could have been avoided?

How could the village have spent that money more wisely?

Oh, let us count the ways.– Chicago Tribune

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