Tooele County has made a dramatic improvement in its website’s public information access, according to a watchdog organization.
Sunshine Review, an Alexandria, Va., based non-profit group that monitors and grades public websites nationwide, reviewed the county’s website this month and gave it an “A+” rating for sharing governmental information.
In 2012, Sunshine Review gave the county’s website a “D” because it lacked information on contracts and lobbying. It also contained only partial information on audits, budgets and tax rates.
But now, Tooele County is the only county in Utah with an “A+” website transparency rating from Sunshine Review, and the positive change pleases Commissioner Jerry Hurst.
“It shows that we’re totally transparent,” he said. “Everything is on the website and can be accessed by the public on their PCs.”
Sunshine Review’s rating system exams public websites for information on budgets, meeting agendas and minutes, elected officials’ contact information, staff contact information, information on permits and zoning, audits, contracts, lobbying, public records and taxes.
After learning about their low grade last year, county officials worked to improve their rating.
“The first time the rating came out we wondered who they were,” said Hurst. “I went to Diane Burgener, Tooele County IT Director, and said ‘We need to do something about this because it’s not going away.’ We discussed this in a department head meeting and asked everyone to do their part to improve our grade.”
Burgener and the IT department took the lead in improving the county’s website rating by requesting information from county departments and posting the information online.
“It has taken some work to get the contracts and requests for proposal information ready for the website,” said Burgener. “Tami Baker, an IT employee, was instrumental in not only researching the information, but making it easy to understand as well. The other elected officials were very cooperative in providing requested documents and files.”
In other local government website reviews, Grantsville’s was rated a “B-” by Sunshine Review this month, the same rating the city received last year.
Grantsville’s website deficiencies include no individual contact information for elected officials, no search function, no information on public records requests, and current open and awarded contracts are not posted, according to Sunshine Review.
Sunshine Review upgraded Tooele City’s website rating from a “C-” in 2012 to a “B-” in 2013.
The Tooele City website is missing information on contracts, lobbying, tax rates and has no search function, according to Sunshine Review.
Only two Utah city websites have an “A” rating from Sunshine Review. Salt Lake City’s website is rated “A-” and West Jordan’s website is rated “A+.”