Parish website gets D-
By: Jeannine LeJeune
In a recent study, the Sunshine Review gave Acadia Parish’s website a D- on a typical letter grade scale.
The Sunshine Review, is a website and group about state local government transparency, engaged citizens, and holding government officials accountable. The Sunshine Review wiki, their website, collects and shares information about state and local transparency using a 10-point Transparency Checklist to evaluate 5,000 state and local government websites. Sunshine Review is a non-profit that collaborates with individuals and organizations across America to promote state and local transparency.
While the D- may seem a bit harsh and horrible, the results of the review show that most parishes in the state, that have a website that is, scored a C or lower.
In the Sunshine Review’s overall findings of the state, the group found that about one-third of the state’s parishes, or 21, do not have a website. Of the remaining 53 parish websites, 16 have budgets on their website, 30 have meeting information, 33 have elected officials, 24 have administrative officials, 12 have permits and zoning information, five have audit information, three have contract information, five have public records and four have tax information. Also, one website has incomplete information about its meetings, six have some elected officials information, one has some administrative official information, two have some permits/zoning information and two have some contract information.
The problems arise in the information that isn’t available on these websites in any form or fashion. This includes 48 websites with no budgetary information, 33 with no information on meetings, 25 websites with no information on who their elected officials are, 39 without administrative officials information, 50 without permits/zoning information, 59 without audit information, 59 without contract information, 59 without public records and 60 that have no tax information.
Relatively none of the parish’s websites have any lobbying information, which is also part of the Sunshine Review’s checklist.
The Sunshine Review had several issues with the parish’s website. While Acadia’s site has information about meetings, elected officials and administrative officials, and features some information on permits/zoning, it was the lack of budget, audit, contract, lobbying, public record and tax information that got the parish a low grade. In a detailed review it broke down the parish’s website into two categories: the good and the bad.
“Our website is pretty old and hasn’t been really upgraded in probably five to six years,” said Acadia Parish Police Jury President A.J. Credeur. “I’ve just always thought there were far more important things and we don’t have the biggest budget.
“Our receptionist Hannah Richard and the office and administrative staff oversee it being maintained.”
Under the good section, the Sunshine Review liked that the website featured a full listing of police jurors and administrative officials was available with contact information. They also liked that meeting dates were listed as well as meeting minutes and agendas. Finally, they liked that there was information posted about permits, but did not like that there was no downloadable applications.
But according to Credeur, it takes time to place these things online. For example the minutes from one meeting are not approved until the next, which means it may take six weeks for one meetings minutes to appear online.
Under the bad section, the review made specific mention of the site not having any budget information listed. They also were not in favor of no information being provided as to how parish residents can request access to the parish’s public documents under Louisiana’s sunshine laws, or the laws that promote government transparency. They also mention there is no parish audits, contracts and tax information is not online.
“Things like the budget just take too much room online,” said Credeur. “As for things like public records, the Clerk of Court has its own website. We focus on what our office has to put online, like minutes and contact information.”
Only one parish had an A+, St. Charles, one had a B, Caddo, and two had a B-, St. Tammany and Calcasieu.
The parish’s school board (APSB) website also did not get favorable reviews. Much like the Acadia website, the APSB features meetings, elected officials and administrative officials, and has some information on academics. But lacks information on taxes, budget, contract, audit, public records and background checks. The school board’s site also received a D-.
“Our website focuses on the schools, students, parents and the classroom,” said Superintendent John E. Bourque. “Each school has a website, we have a website for homework and so on.
“By far our primary concerns are the schools and how they are doing.”
Under its good section, the Sunshine Review liked that the website included a list of school board members, the superintendent and other administrative officials with their contact information. It also liked that the curriculum was posted and that information about when board meetings are held as well as minutes and agendas.
They did not like that the site had no search function, that the budget is not available on the website, that information about how to request public records is not provided and that it does not provide information on taxes, contracts, audits and background checks.
It was also not impressed with the APSB website not disclosing that it is a member of the Louisiana School Board Association.
In it’s city breakdown, Crowley’s website received an F because it only has completed information on meetings and administrative officials and some information on elected officials and permits/zoning; and Rayne’s received an F because it only had local taxes information completed and some information on permits/zoning.
A breakdown of each parish’s websites can be found at http://sunshinereview.org/index.php/Evaluation_of_Louisiana_parish_websites.