Oklahoma cities, counties and school districts mostly earned poor grades from a national nonprofit group that reviewed the information available on government websites, but a few larger cities and counties stood out with top marks.
Tulsa, Owasso, Oklahoma County and Tulsa County all scored A-plus for the information on their websites. The grades were issued by Sunshine Review, a national nonprofit based in Arlington, Va.
Oklahoma City and Wagoner County each managed an A-minus from the group. The state's website got a B.
School districts did the worst, with the majority, including Oklahoma City's, getting an F. Oklahoma City Public Schools was marked down for having no budget or tax information online, among other things.
Tierney Tinnin, district spokeswoman, said she hadn't looked at the full report but acknowledged the district's website could be better.
“I think there is always an opportunity to improve, especially when it comes to transparency,” Tinnin said. “We will look at what they have to say. It's a good opportunity to look at what we need to add.”
Tinnin said the district laid off its webmaster a couple of years ago because of budget cuts. The responsibility of deciding what to put on the website and maintaining individual pages is now spread to several people and departments, she said.
Most counties in the state don't even have websites. Only 22 counties had any sort of web presence, leaving 55 with failing grades by default. Even those with websites often fell short of the group's standards, a 10-point checklist on items like budget information, audits and the availability of public records.
Oklahoma County earned top marks after getting a B-minus the last time the site was reviewed. County Clerk Carolynn Caudill said staff made improvements to the site to address some of Sunshine Review's concerns.
Oklahoma City got an A-minus for the second time in a row even though city officials tried to make improvements to get a better grade, city spokeswoman Kristy Yager said.
Oklahoma City's lone deficiency was in lobbying information. Yager said reviewers told city officials they need to do a better job listing government lobbying associations the city belongs to and the dues paid for those memberships.
Yager said the city should have that information online soon, and she is working with City Clerk Frances Kersey to provide even better access to public records on the site.
“As technology has changed, more people rely on the website and prefer to go there to get information and do business,” Yager said. “We have aspirations to completely redesign the website, but it's taking longer than we had expected, so we decided we are going to make improvements to the current website until we can get the new one up.”
Yager said she's not surprised many smaller cities and counties fared poorly in the review. It's easier for a larger city with more staff to maintain a website with the kind of information Sunshine Review was looking for.
“It is expensive,” Yager said. “It takes staff and money to run our website along with a commitment to maintaining the information, which is a huge challenge even for a city our size.”