A transparency advocacy group says local governments in West Virginia are doing a poor job of providing information to the public on their websites.
The Virginia-based nonprofit Sunshine Review evaluated the websites of the state’s five largest cities and counties, and the 10 largest school districts. It gave them grades ranging from D to F.
West Virginia’s state government website fared better. It received an A-minus from the group, which noted that the website has a search function, provides contact information for agencies and elected officials, and posts budgets, contracts and audits.
The grades are based on the availability of information such as budgets, audits, taxes and elected officials’ names and contact information.
As a general rule, information that’s not found in five minutes is marked as missing because a citizen will spend only 30 seconds to a minute searching for it, said Kristin McMurray, a managing editor.
Some local officials said the grades are flawed because the evaluations missed some things.
Putnam County Schools Superintendent Chuck Hatfield told The Charleston Gazette that the F given to his school system was “quite frankly, insulting.”
Hatfield said some information is available on the school system’s website that the Sunshine Review said was missing, including phone numbers for most board of education members.
Charleston deputy mayor Rod Blackstone also said the Sunshine Review’s evaluation was not complete. The city is redeveloping its website and moving public records online. But some records have not yet been posted.
“I think we deserved a whole lot better grade than what they gave us,” Blackstone told the newspaper.
Charleston’s website received a D-minus. Shortcomings cited by the Sunshine Review included not having information about public records, lobbying, meeting agendas and current-year budgets.
McMurray said the Sunshine Review wants to help governments become transparent, and is willing to take another look at a website if its administrators believe something was missed.