Pugliese calls for transparency changes

Mesa County Commissioner Rose Pugliese wants an A+. In transparency, that is.

Pugliese noticed during her first few months on the job earlier this year that Mesa County had received a C grade in the Sunshine Review rating system for county government websites. Counties are awarded grades based on a one-day review of a county’s website to see how much information is provided online to the public.

She wanted to improve the grade and asked department heads in the county to help her improve their transparency procedures. The result is that the county has recently started recording minutes at all board briefings, even if a decision is not made, and working toward putting more information online. Pugliese said she hopes these steps will help staff and commissioners now and in the future avoid confusion, such as the confusion currently circling around how the county changed its TABOR calculation methods in 2007. That change has brought the county under fire in recent months.

“I think it’s just helpful to have it all out in the open,” Pugliese said.

Sunshine Review, a government transparency-minded group that merged with the similar-minded nonprofit Lucy Burns Institute this month, evaluated the county’s website on Aug. 13, 2012. The county earned points for posting meeting minutes, audits, sales tax information, permit applications and public records online but lost points for excluding three items: a central list of administrator and department head email addresses, information about the county’s lobbying activities, and a roster of contract statements for vendors who earned more than $10,000 from the county.

County spokesman Ryan Cook said he posted the first two items earlier this week. Contact information can be found at http://www.mesacounty.us/contact/leadercontact.aspx. The county doesn’t lobby on its own, Cook said, but it pays dues to six organizations that lobby or promote their interests. The county pays a total of $62,690 per year for dues to the Associated Governments of Northwest Colorado, Club 20, Colorado Counties Inc., the Fruita Chamber of Commerce, the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce and the National Associations of Counties.

That information can be found at mesacounty.us/aboutus/lobbydisclosure.aspx.

Cook said the third change, to place contract statements over $10,000 online, will take a bit longer. He’s not sure how much longer because contracts will have to be gathered from various departments.

Although the Sunshine Review and Lucy Burns Institute have decided since the merger to abandon grading counties in future years, Pugliese said the organization agreed to look at the steps the county has taken to change its site and give it a revised grade. That grade will be posted at Ballotpedia.org/wiki/index.php/Mesa_County,_Colorado.


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