Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Sunshine Review evaluated wrong

‘Blaine’ County’s website grade based on Blaine, Wis.

Express Staff Writer

An organization that lambasted Blaine County for having an uninformative website evaluated the wrong site, county staff say.

Blaine County received a D- grade in November from the Sunshine Review, a nonprofit organization dedicated to increasing transparency in government. A release from the organization stated that it studied the county’s website and found a lack of information on the county budget, meeting schedule, audits, contracts, public records and taxes.

But County Administrator Derek Voss said last Wednesday that he received word from the Sunshine Review that it has been evaluating the incorrect site all along. The organization was looking at the website of Blaine, Wis.,—a township in Burnett County with 224 residents. 

“My fear is, they’re very busy making sure they tell other people how to do their jobs but are not doing their own very well,” he said of the Sunshine Review. “It would almost be entertainment if it wasn’t serious.”

Commissioners’ assistant Jenny Lovell said Tuesday that she has spent roughly 40 hours over the past two months working with Blaine County Recording Secretary Sunny Grant to add information to the site in an attempt to increase the county’s score.

“I’ve been working on it for weeks,” she said. “We’ve put all of the agendas for the last three years on there, all of our contracts, the last five years of budgets and last year’s [financial] audit.”

Lovell said the Sunshine Review has since rated the county’s website and given it a C. She said she planned to add more information to the website in the coming weeks—more financial audits, for example—but that she feels the grade is acceptable.

“The state only has a B, and I figure they have a few full-time website people,” she said.

Voss, too, said he was happy with the effort made by the county to make the website more informative and transparent.

“We did what we said we would do, and hopefully our grade will reflect that,” he said last week. 

Kate Wutz:

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