St. Charles Parish's official website was the only parish website in Louisiana to rank among 112 winners of the second annual "Sunny Awards" announced last week by Sunshine Review, a nonprofit organization that promotes state and local government transparency. The organization collects and shares transparency information using a 10-point "transparency checklist" to evaluate the content of state and local governmental web sites.
St. Charles Parish earned an "A+" grade from Sunshine Review for hitting all 10 transparency criteria used by the organization, including readily accessible information on the parish budget, meetings, elected officials, administrative officials, permits and zoning, audits, contracts, lobbying, public records and local taxes. The organization cited all those points in assessing what was "good" about the parish website — and cited nothing under "the bad."
"Sunny Award winners deserve recognition for making information available to citizens and for setting a transparency standard that all governments can, and should, meet," said Mike Barnhart, president of Sunshine Review. "Access to information empowers every citizen to hold government officials accountable. Official accountability is the cornerstone of self-government and liberty."
Last year, Sunshine Review gave Louisiana's state website a grade of "B-", noting it's not very usable and has incomplete information on lobbying and public records. The organization described the state's site as "very difficult to navigate" and added it "does not provide information on state-paid lobbying and agency lobbying contracts. "Some departments have forms for making public record requests," the group noted, "but there does not seem to be comprehensive information anywhere." — DuBos