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Report ranks Oklahoma low on records accessibility

VALLERY BROWN Published: August 13, 2009
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Nearly 80 percent of Oklahoma’s counties do not make online records accessible to the public.

As a result, Oklahoma is ranked toward the bottom in a report that looks at transparency in local government.

The Sunshine Review grades each county by determining whether its Web site has information about budgets, meetings, elected and administrative officials, zoning and permits, audits, contracts, lobbying, public records and taxes.

The review shows 57 Oklahoma counties don’t have a central Web site.

Oklahoma County received the highest grade: a B-minus. The next highest grades went to Tulsa and Beaver counties: C-minus.

In total, 59 Oklahoma counties failed the 10-point grading scale.

Kristin McMurray, managing editor of the Sunshine Review, said its purpose is to help people become active in their government.

"Activism is turning online,” McMurray said. "We want people to see this checklist, take it to their city hall or county commissioners and tell them they could be doing more.”

McMurray said the Sunshine Review site launched in 2008 and is built by volunteers. Like Wikipedia, users can enter and edit information on the site. McMurray’s writers also peruse it for errors and omissions.

She said mistakes can be corrected in a matter of minutes, and the site is continually updated.

Brian Downs, executive director of Oklahomans for Responsible Government, said in the digital age, putting the information in a convenient place should be the standard.

"This is the taxpayers’ government,” he said. "For them to have confidence in it they should be able to easily access this information.”

Downs said smaller counties receiving high grades prove that it’s not an issue of manpower or cost.

But Mark Thomas, executive vice president of the Oklahoma Press Association, disagrees. Read more from the Sam Adams Alliance Read a comparison of each state's county Web sites Read an evaluation of Oklahoma county Web sites


The Sunshine Review is a project of the Chicago-based Sam Adams Alliance, a conservative nonprofit organization. The organization hosts and funds projects relating to new media, government transparency, health care and taxes.

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