On the February 9 DeKalb city council meeting agenda was this action item:

2. Resolution 2015-011 Waiving Competitive Bidding and Authorizing the Execution of a Website Design Agreement with CivicPlus in an Amount not to Exceed $56,189 in Year One.

Staff said they didn’t have time to put out Requests for Proposals (RFPs). They claimed they’d been taken totally by surprise by Department of Justice findings that the city’s website was not compliant with Americans with Disabilities Act standards and needed to act this instant to meet a tight deadline in June.*

Did the city council pass the resolution? I honestly don’t know. The discussion took one hour, twenty-six minutes and there were several votes taken, including one that I described in my notes as “original motion, DEAD, 9:07.” I could be wrong. At any rate, council still continued to talk and vote until an expenditure up to but not exceeding something around $51,000 was passed 5-3.

There’s another potential issue besides the possible zombie motion, too. Waiving bidding on a public improvement (as opposed to routine procurement) of $20,000 or more generally requires a 2/3 majority to pass. So do some budget amendments, and the CivicPlus deal definitely did blow the website budget of $20,000. I’m not sure what the exception was that allowed for a simple majority vote in this case.

Lest you think I’ve totally lost it, let me tell you I’m not the only one. Staff have not been able to get the minutes right for this meeting and the culprit is the CivicPlus discussion. Right now we’re awaiting the second revision. Read the rest of this entry

DeKalb County put its new website online this week.

The county says the overhaul was not made in response to the Illinois Policy Institute’s recent grade of D-, but has been in the works for about a year.

DeKalb County has put lots online for quite some time, but finding it or even getting a real sense of what all is there could be a problem. Read the rest of this entry

Website Transparency Standouts

The Illinois Policy Institute recently re-tested government website transparency in DuPage County’s York Township and released results last week.

Dubbed “The Local Transparency Project,” grades are based on the availability to the public of vital community information such as public meeting schedules, government employee salaries and tax rates. Since the project was launched by the Institute in February 2010, more than 160 government entities have been graded.

The government entities that scored above 80 percent were: DuPage County, Elmhurst School District 205, DuPage High School District 88 and the municipalities of Elmhurst, Hinsdale, Downers Grove and Lombard. The village of Lombard, in fact, maintained a score of 100 percent that initially awarded in May 2012.

Almost all of the websites gained points the second time around, and the top sites made such improvement as to suggest conscious responses to the first test.

And it’s not just about uploading content, but organizing it in such a way that it is easy to find.

The Village of Lombard website is tops for several reasons. Redundancy is one. For example, you can get to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) information and forms from both the “How Do I…?” menu on the front page, and via the “Online Forms by Department” menu. An “A-Z” index is also available, which is how I found out the village offers extra goodies for residents, such as a directory of local contractors who meet village requirements for insurance and so on. Read the rest of this entry

The first task was to select a grading system. The Sunshine Review Transparency Checklist seemed like a good place to start, but its City Websites wiki page lists criteria that are different from the checklist used for rankings and awards. It was confusing, and left the impression that check registers and ethics were casualties of a list determined to remain at 10 and only 10 items no matter what.

The Illinois Policy Institute’s 10-Point Transparency Checklist was developed in consultation with Sunshine Review so checklist items, rationales and examples are quite similar, but there is greater consistency of information across pages. IPI additionally employs a scoring rubric based on a possible 100 points, which makes the obsession with 10 a bit more understandable. It also generates greater confidence that two audits of the same website at the same point in time would score pretty much the same. IPI also forgoes ethics policy posting requirements, but did manage to save check register criteria by consolidating the elected officials with the administrative.

Without further ado: Read the rest of this entry