When politicians or government bureaucrats get their knickers in a knot on being asked to justify an expenditure of public funds, you know something is up.

Either a contract was awarded improperly, expenses got padded, a kickback got paid or some other fast one happened.

Proper stewards of public funds don't balk at oversight. They welcome it.

"You want the records for the construction of the 80-foot-tall, solid gold, jewel-encrusted peacock erected to honor Mayor Megalo? Just a moment. I'll get them for you."

"The bids for Chief Peeper's new fleet of dragonfly spy drones upgraded with night vision and parabolic ears? Here they are."

That's how honest public servants respond when asked for an accounting.

But that's not how things work in Caseyville.

If tax-paying citizens in Caseyville want to know the real cost of the latest boondoggle, they have to file a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request.

There's not much point in doing that, however, since the request will more than likely be denied, because the public servants responsible for the boondoggle also get to decide whether or not to release the details about it that might make them look bad.

Supposedly using unbiased judgment, public officials generally conclude that transparency is a good idea as a rule and in the abstract, but not in certain isolated instance where the facts are best hidden.

The commissars in Caseyville know that most citizens will never take the trouble to file an FOIA request. They also know that requests can simply be denied, followed by a drawn out appeal process that serves the public officials but not the public.

Hard-nosed citizens like Bradley Van Hoose, who's determined to pin down the cost of a fishing dock at Caseyville Park, are a little harder to deal with. But that's what the Caseyville Police Department can be used for. It knows how to handle alleged troublemakers.

The main thing is not to let the taxpayers who pay the public servants' salaries find out what's really going on at city hall.

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