JONESBORO (09.12.2012) – A few months ago, Union Countybegan the initial steps of its Transparency Project. This effort to bring more openness to county government by releasing public records online has garnered the attention of Sunshine Review, one of the leading advocacy groups devoted to grading state and local transparency.
On August 21, 2012, Sunshine Review published an updated review of Union County’s website. In the span of just a few months,UnionCounty’s transparency grade jumped two full letter grades from an initial “F” to a “C.” This placed Union County solidly in the top 20% of Illinois counties as reviewed by the group.
“Union County has made dramatic improvements to their online transparency. They excelled in disclosing information about how to attain public records and providing financial data. The county has indicated its dedication to transform its ‘C’ grade to an ‘A+.’ We encourage the elected officials of UnionCountyto invest the necessary resources to making their website one of the best in Illinois,” said Kristin McMurray, Managing Editor of Sunshine Review (sunshinereview.org).
Rollie Hawk of Union County Technology Solutions, a local IT services provider responsible for the county’s website and email services, is pleased with the progress but acknowledges there’s still much work to be done.
“I’m far from satisfied with where we are but it’s nice to have some of our progress getting noticed,” said Hawk. “At first I was disappointed to receive the ‘C’ grading but when I consider we were effectively starting from nowhere, well, I’m happy with the direction we’re going.
“One of the great things about a review like this is it spells out exactly the kind of information that needs to be released,” Hawk added. “It really helps to move a project along when you are basically handed a roadmap that says, ‘here’s where you are and there’s where you need to go’.”
Hawk is part of a three-person team working on this project which also includes treasurer Darren Bailey and state’s attorney Tyler Edmonds. Testament to their offices’ involvement were the high praises for Union County’s taxing transparency, largely the result of documents recently published by the treasurer’s office and the fact that Union County’s entire code of ordinances is now available online at code.unioncountyil.gov.
“It’s reassuring, both as a taxpayer and as someone who provides consulting and services to the county, to be part of a county so dedicated to openness and transparency,” said Hawk. “Chairman Randy Lambdin and the rest of the board bought into the concept of online transparency rather quickly and have been supportive through the entire process.”
The full report from Sunshine Review is available at unioncountyil.gov/sunshinereview.