COVINGTON -- Newton County's website received a passing grade during a recent review by an advocacy group dedicated to government transparency, but there is room for improvement.
The county website received a grade of C based on an independent analysis from Sunshine Review, a non-profit in Alexandria, Va., that collaborates with individuals and organizations throughout the country in pursuit of a better-informed citizenry and transparent government.
Sunshine Review rates state and local government websites using a 10-point checklist measuring content available to the public. The criteria are: budgets, posting of meetings, information about elected and administrative officials, permits and zoning, audits, contracts, lobbying disclosure, public records and taxes.
Newton's website was deemed to have adequate information on meetings, elected and administrative officials, permits and zoning, audits and taxes and partial information on the budget. The website does not include information on contracts, lobbying or public records, Sunshine Review found.
Chairman Kathy Morgan could not be reached for comment.
Neighboring Rockdale County also received a C for providing partial information on the budget and no information on audits, lobbying or public records. Rockdale's website has adequate information regarding meetings, elected and administrative officials, permits and zoning and contracts, according to Sunshine Review.
Only three counties in Georgia -- Clayton, Cobb and Fulton -- scored a perfect A+. Eighty counties received an F, including the 44 counties that do not have websites.
Overall, Georgia's score improved from a B- to a B. The five largest counties averaged a B while the overall county average was a D. The 10 largest school districts -- neither Newton nor Rockdale is included -- averaged a C+.
"Georgia's improvement in transparency speaks volumes of their dedication and commitment to providing their citizens with vital information," said Mike Barnhart, president of Sunshine Review. "Transparency is the cornerstone of self-governance. Without access to information, it is impossible for citizens to hold government officials accountable and to fully participate in civic matters."
Since its inception in 2008, Sunshine Review has analyzed the websites of all 50 states and more than 6,000 state and local entities. For more information, visit www.sunshinereview.org.