Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

February 2, 2013

Greenup, Boyd get Fs in government transparency

Carrie Stambaugh
The Independent

ASHLAND — Kentucky has again received low marks for state and local government transparency, as graded by the national non-profit organization Sunshine Review.

Local counties, including Boyd and Greenup County, failed the grade.

According to the organization's 2013 Transparency Report Card, Kentucky was among the worst performing states, receiving a C across all measurements including state, county, school and city government transparency.

Every state, including Kentucky, met the criteria for disclosing tax revenues, audits and contact information for administrative officials. But Kentucky failed to meet the mark in five of ten areas of transparency, according to the review.

Kentucky joined Kentucky and Nebraska for performing the poorest on the evaluation.

“A grade of a C- in transparency is really a disservice to constituents. A C-minus is really about doing the bare minimum and I think Kentucky has a lot of room to improve,” said Sunshine Review Managing Editor Kristin McMurray.

McMurray said Kentucky lost points for the useability of the state websites including its search function and navigation features.

“There is not a lot of archived information on your websites,” she explained. “For example, there was only one year of budget information and they ask for three.”  

Cabinets and departments within the state government also lost points for failing to provide detailed contact information for public information officers including clearly identifying them, and providing direct phone numbers and personalized email addresses for each department.

According to the report, Kentucky wasn’t the only state that failed in this area. Only 32 percent of states provided contact information for all public information officers in a central location.

Kentucky performed worst, McMurray said, when it came to disclosing current contract and grant information. “We couldn’t find anything about that,” she said.

“This is unique to Sunshine Review. For lobbying we look for state funded lobbyists, people who are employed to go and lobby the federal government for aid. We couldn’t find any information on that,” she said, adding the review “looked for private retention and or association by a representative state.”

Kentucky did do well in some areas, said McMurray. “They did very good at contacting elected administrative officials and they also did a good job disclosing their ethics commission information. They were very good about disclosing audits,” she added.

Only three states — Arizona, Massachusetts, and Washington — disclosed all state-funded lobbying activity agency lobbying and provided a database of registered lobbyists.

The Sunshine Review has also scored states on transparency at the county level. They evaluated the five largest county governments in each state, according to McMurray. In Kentucky that included, Fayette, Jefferson, Hardin, Kenton and Warren counties. Kentucky again scored an average of C for transparency.

 In 2009, the non-profit reviewed all counties in Kentucky. At that time the state averaged a D.  Some of those scores were updated in 2011, including Boyd and Greenup County. They were not among the counties revisited this year.

In 2009 and 2011, Greenup and Boyd County both received grades of F, said McMurray. Boyd provided only contact information for elective and administrative officials, she said, and failed to provide information on taxes, how to obtain public records, contracts, permits and zoning information, auditors, meetings and budgets.  

Greenup County also got an F. At that time it provided only partial contact information for elected officials, but did provide contact information for administrative officials and how to obtain public records.

The six largest cities in Kentucky were also evaluated including: Bowling Green, Covington, Frankfort, Lexington, Louisville, and Owensboro. The average grade was a C. Bowling Green scored a B, Owensboro and Lexington a B-, while Frankfort and Louisville received the grade of C. Covington got a C-.

The Sunshine Review also evaluated the state’s largest school districts and again Kentucky’s received an average C grade.

Districts evaluated included: Boone, Bullitt, Christian, Daviess, Fayette, Hardin, Jefferson, Kenton, Pike, and Warren county school districts. Only Jefferson County Public Schools received an A, followed by Fayette County with a B. Warren and Hardin got a B-, followed by Boone, Bullitt, Christian, Kenton and Pike counties that received C grades and Daviess that got a D.

CARRIE STAMBAUGH can be reached at cstambaugh@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2653.