Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Limited Online Access to Local Government

Sunshine Review is a website tracking transparency in government and it also compiles state by state reviews on how much information is available to the public via local and state government websites. Tennessee has a token presence online but more than one-third of the counties don't even have a website (35 counties have no website).

Hamblen County scores an "F" for their website, despite some recent improvements (more on those new changes is here at noe4acccountability). UPDATE: Speaking with County Mayor David Purkey, he points out there are several errors in the Sunshine Review evaluation, noting that the most recent county audits are available via the Hamblen County website, which the SR scores incorrectly, also that vendor info is available. Other improvements are underway but Purkey again pointed out that the scoring had old information and was not current.

Statewide, the current status of online information has plenty of gaps:

  • 21 Tennessee counties put their budgets on their websites.
  • 23 counties include information on their websites about public government meetings.
  • 51 include information about the county's elected officials.
  • 56 include information about the county's administrative officials.
  • 12 give information about permits and zoning in the county.
  • 16 of the counties put information on their websites about audits that the county government has had performed.
  • None of the counties provide information about their contracts with county vendors.
  • None of the county websites disclose whether or not they belong to any taxpayer-funded lobbying associations.
  • None of the counties provide information on how to request public records using the Tennessee Open Records Act.
  • 16 county websites provide some information about county taxes.

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