Calhoun County and Dillon County both recently added websites, joining the vast majority of the state’s other counties and leaving Lee and Marion as the only Palmetto State counties without Internet sites.
Earlier this year, Alexandria, Va.-based Sunshine Review, a nonprofit organization dedicated to state and local government transparency, reported that several South Carolina county websites received failing grades in providing citizens with pertinent information on how their counties operate.
Those grades were based on Sunshine Review’s “Transparency Checklist,” which analyzed websites for information about budgets, meetings, elected and administrative officials, permits and zoning, audits, contracts, lobbying, public records and taxes.
“Access to information empowers every citizen to hold government officials accountable for the conduct of the public’s business and the spending of taxpayers’ money,” said Michael Barnhart, president of Sunshine Review. “Official accountability is the cornerstone of self-government and liberty.”
Calhoun County’s website includes information about county council members, the sheriff, treasurer, auditor, clerk of court and coroner, and also has information on administrative officials; public meeting times and dates; information on permitting and zoning; a link for online tax payment; and some data on county contracts.
“We’re still in the building stages as far as our website is concerned,” said Calhoun County Administrator F. Lee Prickett Jr. “We’re hoping to be able to add the county budget and property maps and such before too long.”
Pritckett said the decision to add a county website wasn’t a tough one.
“We felt like it was something we needed to do, to get more information to people,” he said. “We’re trying to be as transparent as possible.”
Dillon County’s website isn’t nearly so transparent, listing only information on elected and administrative officials, public meetings and a link to pay taxes online among items highlighted in Sunshine Review’s Transparency Checklist.
However, the county hopes to be able to add such items as council meeting minutes, ordinances and email addresses for elected and administrative officials at some point in the future, County Administrator David D. Mobley Jr. said.
Neither Calhoun nor Dillon has placed check registers on their websites.
When Sunshine Review released its transparency grades earlier this year, websites for Allendale, Bamberg, Cherokee, Laurens, McCormick, Saluda, Union and Williamsburg counties all received failing grades.
At the other end of the spectrum, websites for both Anderson and Aiken counties received an “A.” Of more than 5,000 government websites nationwide, only 39 earned an “A” or “A-plus.”
Reach Dietrich at (803) 779-5022, ext. 110, or firstname.lastname@example.org.