3/14/2017 4:57:00 PM EDITORIAL: Share more public information on local government websites
Times of Northwest Indiana
Most, if not all, local government bodies in Northwest Indiana maintain websites for their respective agencies, offering an essentially infinite place for the sharing of public information.
It's past time for all Region cities, towns, county government offices and other local government entities to make full use of these important tools for the good of their constituents.
As we observe Sunshine Week, a time dedicated to promoting the free and open flow of public information, we call on all leaders of Region government to publish and archive their budgets, notices of public meetings, public meeting agendas, meeting minutes, periodic expense reports and other important public documents on their respective websites.
Some Northwest Indiana local government bodies are leading the way in this regard, with an emphasis on transparency.
The Lake County Solid Waste Management District, once embattled by the spending scandals of a past director, is now under different leadership that prioritizes transparency. The district distributes state recycling grants to Lake County municipalities and provides recycling education.
Since assuming the district's helm in 2015, Executive Director John Minear has led a rebuild of the agency's website, slated to be complete in May.
Monthly meeting minutes and detailed expense reports to be considered at the most current upcoming board meeting can be accessed on the website.
Soon, the rebuilt website will include annual budgets, records of all expenditures and other public documents, Minear said.
It's a sharp turnaround from an agency that two years ago was reeling from the use of thousands of taxpayer dollars for employee and board member gifts, expensive meals, surf boards and other inappropriate largess. It took an extensive Times investigation, involving a Freedom of Information Act Request and review of dozens of boxes of documents, to get to the bottom of those spending issues.
Minear knows the importance of keeping all public business in the public light to prevent such abuses.
Some other municipal websites are making efforts toward public transparency.
Archived minutes from past meetings, for example, are available on Merrillville's website. This is a useful and free way citizens, whose schedules don't permit attending town council meetings, can review the words and actions of elected leaders.