By Jill Kelley, Dayton Daily News Staff Writer
Ohio websites do a good job at making information available to the public, according to a recent audit by the Sunshine Review.
The Sunshine Review — a national nonprofit, pro-transparency organization — released state transparency analyses for government and school district websites Tuesday, and reported that Ohio received a “B” overall.
The grades are based on a checklist of 10 items, based on the entity, that the group deems important for a state, county, city or public school district site to have.
The inclusion of budgets, meetings, lobbying, financial audits, contracts, academic performance, public records and taxes help toward getting a passing grade.
“Ohio ranks in the top three (of the 16 surveyed) for disclosing information to the public via their government websites,” said Michael Barnhart, president of the Sunshine Review, noting that the other two top states were California and Wisconsin.
Barnhart said the Dayton Public Schools website was among the best in the country, and received an “A+” in the audit.
Melissa Fowler, who runs the DPS site, said her goal is to make the website as accessible as possible for the public.
“It is never a stagnant process; it’s always developing,” Fowler said.
Montgomery County earned an “A-”.
Montgomery County Auditor Karl Keith said the website has been good for the county as well, and has cut down on phone calls and office traffic.
“We were constantly getting requests for information and this has made it easier,” he said. “We get about 150,000 hits daily on our real estate site.”
He added that the recent election is an example of how the county site is accessible and valuable to residents.
“I remember when we would camp out at county administration building on election night, in the lobby, and they would set up big TV screens there and project results,” Keith said. “Now you can sit in your living room and get results; or even on your iPhone.”
Barnhart said the purpose of the group and the review is to hold public officials accountable via access to information.
“The cornerstone of our republic is that people can vote for those who represent them on the school board or city council or as president of the United States,” Barnhart said. “That accountability depends on informed citizens.”
Barnhart said Sunshine Review has been evaluating websites since 2008, and has analyzed more than 6,000 state and local government websites to date.