Republican Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka on Monday sought to strike back against the notion that she hasn't done enough to oversee spending by towns and cities across Illinois, launching a website she says will make it easier to see how taxpayer money is spent.
The site, dubbed "The Warehouse," compiles annual financial reports that about 5,200 towns, counties and taxing districts must file with the state each year. While that information has been available in paper format, Topinka says the electronic database is more user-friendly.
Topinka has come under fire for what Democratic challenger Sheila Simon says is a lack of proper oversight of local government accounting. Simon, who is lieutenant governor, points to towns like Dixon, where city funds were raided of nearly $54 million over more than two decades by Rita Crundwell, the western Illinois city's convicted former comptroller.
Aides to Topinka note that Dixon public officials completed the required independent audits, saying there was "nothing in the reports that would have raised a red flag." Topinka maintains that making it easier to view financial records will help detect problems.
"The fact is that government acts more responsibly when it knows people are watching," she said.
Topinka unveiled the site, warehouse.illinoiscomptroller.com, at an event in Chicago but plans a three-day tour of the state to talk up the initiative. The reports on the site include annual independent audits that each unit of government is required to file, as well as financial data including fund balances, debt and construction spending.
Simon criticized the site as a simple "repurposing" of information that was already available, saying the move was "too little and too late."
"We've had far too many examples of corruption at the local level, along with missed opportunity to spot that corruption under Judy Baar Topinka," Simon said in a statement.
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