What was supposed to be an “anonymous” survey of the Village’s senior citizens to elicit opinions regarding the services offered by the village, may not be anonymous according to one expert who reviewed the form at the request of the Oak Lawn Leaf.
In May, the Oak Lawn Leaf exclusively revealed that the Village of Oak Lawn had mailed “anonymous” surveys to the Village’s senior citizens asking for their opinion on services that could, or should be, offered through the Village. The survey was never approved by the village board or discussed at any regular board meeting.
The survey has three questions and was apparently sent to seniors who are actively involved in the senior citizens programs offered by the village. The first question asks respondents to grade the various activities, such as card games and exercise classes, with a letter grade. The second question asks respondents to suggest improvements for the programs. The third question similarly asks for suggestions of additions to the programs.
Respondents were asked to return the survey but at the bottom, the word “optional” is printed next to a space for the respondent’s name, allowing anonymity for those that choose to answer. However, we spoke to an expert in computer technology and surveys who told us that the survey is not “anonymous”. He said the bar code would allow the village to track every response and link it directly to the individual respondent.
Our expert spoke on the condition that we would not reveal his identity. He said that the bar code located on the side of the survey actually allows the village to monitor who the survey was sent to and how the individual responded. “The only reason to put a bar code on the survey is to find out who is making the response and it takes away the anonymity factor”, said the expert.
He said that he often consults with businesses and he would never use a bar code on an anonymous survey because it is “unethical” to tell respondents that it is anonymous and then track responses.
Mayor Sandra Bury had reacted negatively to a proposal to anonymously survey policemen and firefighters on their opinions regarding 911 emergency dispatch services under the village’s contracted services. The proposal was made by Trustee Robert Streit (Dist. 3) at a meeting causing Bury to remark, that Streit likes anonymous things. She later apologized for the statement. The survey was never sent out.
Streit had argued that an anonymous survey on the 911 issue would provide the village officials with more accurate responses in the case of the dispatching issue. The senior survey has not been discussed at a regular village board meeting according to minutes of every meeting for the last two years. However, several senior citizens sent the Oak Lawn Leaf a copy of the survey.
Streit said that he had no idea who authorized the survey being sent. He said that he would have preferred that the survey was anonymous and that it should have been “professionally” done.
Mayor Bury could not be reached for comment, the US Postal Service has indicated that her mail is no longer deliverable to her condo address, and for several months the village has blocked the Oak Lawn Leaf from sending emails to any village official.