NORTH OGDEN — Some city council members are concerned over a “D” rating the city’s website received from the Sunshine Review, a nonprofit organization that looks at state and local government transparency.
All Utah city and county websites were studied with a 10-point checklist. The Sunshine Review wanted to see if the government entities “proactively disclose” government data.
The main research for the study was done by the Sutherland Institute, a Utah-based government and political research group. The institute spent 20 minutes on each of the 111 government websites, searching for the items on the checklist ranging from budget availability to ability to request public records. The average grade for the Utah locations was C-minus.
Councilman Dave Hulme wasn’t satisfied with the website’s “D” rating and suggested that more information be included on the website, www.northogdencity.com, in a more user-friendly way.
The city was downgraded for not having audits, no information on the building permit process, no city contracts posted, no way to request public records and no information on local taxes.
North Ogden got high marks for having the budget available on the main page, elected and administrative officials listed with contact information, and agendas and minutes available.
Although the study was conducted in 2010, Hulme said the design of the webpage is still the same, so the transparency issue still exists. He thinks the city should move toward designing the site so people can access things quickly.
City Recorder Annette Spendlove said the audit is on the site, but it can be difficult to locate.
“The city website needs to be redesigned,” Mayor Richard Harris said. He believes the front page is too cluttered and confusing for people trying to access information. The site currently does not have a webmaster, but he believes the city needs to budget money to have the site revamped, although he said he doesn’t know who in the city would want to read the audit anyway.
“I would just show we have nothing to hide and someone may want to read it,” Hulme said.
In an email, Harris said it seemed unfair the city was downgraded for not having lobbyist information when the city does not have a lobbyist. He also said the city has always been open and upfront with how it does business, so nothing will change in that regard.
The city has recently adopted a media policy that states that all interaction with the media must be done by way of email. Some residents have said that makes the city appear as not being transparent.
Hulme doesn’t want the city to appear that way and wants the website to not be up for that scrutiny. For information about the city’s rating as well as other cities in the state visit www.sunshinereview.org/index.php/Evaluation_of_Utah_city_websites.