2010 City of DeKalb Website Transparency Scores

The first task was to select a grading system. The Sunshine Review Transparency Checklist seemed like a good place to start, but its City Websites wiki page lists criteria that are different from the checklist used for rankings and awards. It was confusing, and left the impression that check registers and ethics were casualties of a list determined to remain at 10 and only 10 items no matter what.

The Illinois Policy Institute’s 10-Point Transparency Checklist was developed in consultation with Sunshine Review so checklist items, rationales and examples are quite similar, but there is greater consistency of information across pages. IPI additionally employs a scoring rubric based on a possible 100 points, which makes the obsession with 10 a bit more understandable. It also generates greater confidence that two audits of the same website at the same point in time would score pretty much the same. IPI also forgoes ethics policy posting requirements, but did manage to save check register criteria by consolidating the elected officials with the administrative.

Without further ado:

[table id=8 /]

IPI penalizes non-searchable documents by 30%. DeKalb’s searchable documentation includes agendas and much of the agenda packet nowadays, such as meeting minutes (all city and DSATS), budgets, audits and the check register. This is a huge improvement.

In another area, however, we’ve suffered a significant loss. We used to have access to agendas and meeting minutes back to 2002 but now with the new and not-so-much improved website you can’t access them online further back than 2009 (even though they do show up on the search list). What this means in practical terms is that I might be able to plug, say, “Masonry Works” or “Vendor 3104” into the website search function but will only find one payment to that vendor because all the others were made in 2008.

Of course, the documents we probably need to look at most urgently are the items with the zeroes.

I will save a posting of recommendations for another day, in case one or more of you put some good ones in comments for me to steal. 😉