Douglas County sets ‘sunny’ example with transparency initiatives
The effort to increase government transparency began with a group of Florida newspapers that wanted to talk about open government. Their effort grew to a national scorecard in the form of the Sunshine Review, which each year ranks government agencies on their transparency practices.
The effort is recognized in mid-March with Sunshine Week, showcasing the effort about the public’s right to know what its government is doing, and why.
Douglas County was singled out in the 2013 transparency report card as the first in Colorado to rank an A-plus for website transparency. County officials supported the effort to meet the Sunshine Review Board’s 10-point transparency checklist, which grades on the availability of information on government websites.
The measuring stick reviews available content on government websites against a checklist of information all government agencies should provide to the public.
“Transparency empowers citizens,” said Michael Barnhart, president of Sunshine Review. “Citizens are entitled to crucial information on how the public business is conducted and how public money is spent. Without this information, voters cannot hold government accountable. Without transparency accountability is impossible."
Among the items on the checklist are public budget information, usability of the site, information about elected and administration officials, posted ethics guidelines, audits, contracts, lobbyist information, public records and taxes.
Colorado received an A-minus for 2013 while Douglas County was cited as one of the state’s two best examples of improvement in its transparency policies.
As Colorado’s lead county to earn a top grade, it set the example for Adams County, which in 2012 followed through with ethics reforms and earned its first Sunny Award, according to the 2013 sunshine transparency report card.
“A responsibility of the board, on behalf of our citizens and taxpayers, is to see to it that Douglas County government is open and transparent,” said Commissioner Jill Repella, District 3. “We recognize that nothing is more critical to building a reputation for stability and credibility as stewards of pubic assets than public trust and — especially for government — informational and fiscal transparency is foundational to that achievement.”
Sunshine Week is March 10-16. For more information about the Sunshine Review Board’s 2013 transparency report card, visit www.sunshinereview.org.
2013 Sunshine Review transparency report card
• School districts had the most dismal grades, with only 20 percent of school districts scoring a “B” or above.
• The five best-performing states were California, Illinois, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Washington.
• The five worst-performing states include: Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi, Nebraska and South Dakota.
• Colorado received an A-minus.
Source: Sunshine Review