Our View: McSweeney's sexual harassment and discrimination transparency bill a positive step

March 17, 2018

Northwest Herald Editorial Board

Sexual harassment and discrimination claims against public officials should not be handled privately.

Such claims, when founded, deserve to be held up to the light in front of the public and be the subject of scrutiny.

We all should know both how it was handled and how much tax money it cost us.

So we applaud Rep. David McSweeney, R-Barrington Hills, for his work to amend the Local Records Act to require public bodies to disclose information about severance agreements tied to sexual harassment or discrimination.

The House approved HB 4242 by a 106-0 vote this week and it now will move to the Illinois Senate.

“We as taxpayers have a right to know if taxpayer money is being used to pay for settlements with government employees guilty of sexual harassment or sexual discrimination,” McSweeney said in a statement. “Settlements like this have been kept hidden from the public for far too long. This legislation shines a spotlight on these severance agreements and holds taxing bodies accountable for their actions.”

The measure was made in response to an agreement that came when Des Plaines Elementary School District 62 Board voted to pay then-Superintendent Floyd Williams a severance package after he was accused of sexually harassing employees.

The legislation requires governments to publish that information on the internet, and to make the information available to the news media within 72 hours of approval of an agreement. 

We appreciate McSweeney’s efforts to create transparency in many parts of government, but this measure is especially important as it helps inform the public on the cost of such claims and their severity.

Holding public officials up to a high standard, a transparent standard, should be a given.

McSweeney’s efforts on this bill help make that true.

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