Washoe County Website Plans Upgrade, Finds Sunshine Review Request Unusual
Washoe County has the most transparent website out of all Nevada’s counties, according to the Sunshine Review.
The transparency organization awarded the site with a grade of “B-“ for its comprehensive information on county budgets, audits, meetings, taxes, elected officials and administrative officials. The site was criticized, however, for its lack of information on contracts, lobbying and public records requests.
According to Washoe County Community Relations Director Kathy Carter, every comment or suggestion that the county site receives is read by either her or the site’s webmaster, Chris Matthews, and they look for ways to improve the site in any way that citizens suggest. No citizen had ever requested any of the features that the Sunshine Review penalized the site for omitting, she said, but she acknowledged that adding such features should not be difficult.
Carter found the Sunshine Review’s request for disclosure on whether Washoe County belongs to a taxpayer-funded lobbying organization unusual, saying that she had never heard of a website disclosing such information. She did not think such a disclosure would pose a problem, however, and added the county does not belong to any such organization. Matthews, who was one of the founding members of the National Association of Government Webmasters, also had not heard of government sites disclosing such information, though he said he has begun to look into other government sites’ handling of the issue.
Like its less-transparent Clark County counterpart, a revamp of Washoe County’s website will go live this summer. The new design is intended to give citizens easier access to the site’s most-used features, such as video streaming of public meetings and property look-up information. The new site will embed the video streams on the front page, and allow citizens to find all the property information they need in one place.
The new site will also address the issue with public records by providing an online form that allows citizens to make public records requests, which also will track all requests to ensure that those responsible for fulfilling the requests do their job properly.
Matthews said that transparency is “incredibly important” to Washoe count and that citizens have the right to know everything about the county government.
“We are their employees,” he said. “As their employees, it is our responsibility that they are as informed about the county’s processes as they want to be.”
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