ICOG likes to highlight examples of government officials acting to improve access. Last month in Huntington, a split decision by the Common Council means citizens in the northeast Indiana community will have robust access to important local government information, including financial transactions, on that city’s new Web site.

ICOG President Keith Robinson called the action “aggressive and positive” on behalf of the community.

Council member Steve McIntyre, who led the effort to make city government records more easily available online, invited Robinson to speak to the council on June 9 to emphasize the importance of transparency in government. The council in May had passed McIntyre’s resolution requiring the city to post much more information on the Web site than it previously had made available online. Because the vote was so close – 4-3 – McIntyre felt the need for more public discussion of the issue.

McIntyre said in his resolution that a newly designed city Web site “will provide the public with greater transparency with regard to its budgeting and spending.”

The resolution requires posting a record of every payment by the city, including the amount and, except where prohibited by law, the identity of the recipient. It also mandates posting of a roster of all “government personnel” – city employees, officers, elected officials and members of boards and commissions. McIntyre said the identities of employees requiring confidentiality, such as undercover police officers, would not be made public.

Also to be posted are council resolutions, ordinances, codes, rules and zoning regulations. While many city and county governments post such documents on their Web sites, it is not so common to see financial transactions there.

“You have taken an aggressive and positive step, and I applaud you for that,” Robinson told the council. He said the resolution could serve as a model for other local governments.

One council member asked if being “aggressive” in posting documents online was a bad thing.

“No,” Robinson said. “In this case, it’s a very good thing.”  He gave examples of Web sites of communities similar in size to Huntington, noting that he could find little information of much use on some of them.

Huntington’s new Web site was launched in late June. The financial records are to be posted at least monthly beginning in August. You can read the full council resolution by clicking here.