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Oklahoma’s local governments win total of 10 transparency awards

Michael Barnhart, Sunshine Review
Michael Barnhart, Sunshine Review

By Patrick B. McGuigan
Associate Publisher

Local governments in Oklahoma, including those for the state’s two most populous jurisdictions, won a total of 10 National Transparency awards last week. The news came during national observance of “Sunshine Week,” March 10-16, a time when media organizations and civic groups scrutinize progress – or lack thereof – toward open government.

Michael Barnhart, president of Sunshine Review, a national group promoting transparency in government, said ten of Oklahoma’s local government entities earned top grades in his group’s annual assessment of transparency.

Sunshine Review, a nonprofit national group that focuses exclusively on government transparency issues, designated 10 winners in the Sooner State. The “Sunny Awards” heaped praise on the nation’s most transparent government websites. In all, 247 government entities were praised for transparency and provision of public access to information.

Florida garnered the most “Sunnys,” with 25, but Oklahoma had one of the highest totals. These states led the way, according to Sunshine Review: Florida (25), Virginia (19), Illinois (19), California (12), Georgia (12), Kansas (11), Oklahoma (10) and Colorado (9). Grades of A+ went to to 35 counties, 22 cities and 42 school districts across America.

No state governments earned “A” grades. Budget information, online checkbook registers and a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) checklist kept state governments from the highest grade.

“The Sunny Awards recognize governments that make transparency a priority. The winners of the Sunny Awards are cities, counties and school districts that proactively share the public information that empowers citizens and keeps government accountable to the people,” commented Sunshine Review President Michael Barnhart.

Oklahoma’s winners, including governments in Oklahoma and Tulsa counties, were:
• Broken Arrow, Oklahoma
• Enid, Oklahoma
• Oklahoma County, Oklahoma
• Owasso, Oklahoma
• Tulsa County, Oklahoma
• Tulsa, Oklahoma
• Edmond Public Schools, Oklahoma
• Norman, Oklahoma
• Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
• Wagoner County, Oklahoma

“We encourage other cities and counties in Oklahoma to examine the winners’ websites and put resources into making transparency a priority,” Barnhart said in an email to Oklahoma Watchdog.

Sunshine Review’s editors reviewed more than 1,000 qualifying websites and graded on a 10-point checklist that assessed disclosure of such items as budgets, meetings, lobbying, financial audits, contracts, academic performance, public records and taxes. The Sunny Award winners were those government websites that earned grades of “A.”

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