Should organizations that receive taxpayer funds be required to open their records to taxpayers as the government does?
Economic development councils are typically nonprofits that distribute millions of dollars in public funds and tax breaks to attract businesses to communities. Illinois law says these private groups aren’t subject to public requests about how they’re spending that money. Maryam Judar with the Citizen Advocacy Center said this keeps citizens in the dark.
“How can the public hold a nonprofit economic development corporation accountable just because of the bylaws of the corporation?” Judar said. “There’s nothing that a citizen can do to hold the private nonprofit accountable.”
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Georgia Man, Gov. Bruce Rauner’s chief compliance officer, said the private entities have to follow the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity’s rules when it comes to receiving state dollars.
“DCEO is required to follow all state laws when giving out grants and tax incentives, including the Illinois Procurement Code and the Grant Accountability and Transparency Act. Any organization that receives a grant or a contract is subject to conflict-of-interest provisions.”
But Judar said that’s not true. “If the nonprofit is not subject to the sunshine laws, then they have a huge loophole. DCEO cannot do anything about that,” she said.
The argument comes as Rauner is forming a statewide private economic development corporation.