This week’s topic is Erie County’s website.
When it comes to government, you just cannot have enough transparency. The more transparency the better so the taxpayers can better understand what is happening with their government.
I obtain the County’s agenda and minutes through the County Clerk. The agenda and meeting times are now being posted on the website but you really have to look for the information. It is under “County Directory” and then move down to click on Commissioners. The motions and resolutions can be obtained by way of public request, as they are not posted on the website. The County website has improved but a lot more information could be posted.
My biggest pet peeve is the lack of legislation on the County’s agenda. In fact, legislation is nonexistent on any of the County’s agendas. The taxpayer doesn’t know ahead of time what legislation the commissioners will be discussing or voting on in order to be able to speak on any legislation before it is passed.
I am terribly spoiled when comparing Sandusky’s agenda to the County’s agenda. Sandusky even displays the supporting documents of each piece of legislation on their website so you can understand exactly what is being considered. Sandusky’s minutes and agendas are also posted on their website along with their resolutions and ordinances.
The following is an example of one of the County’s agendas for October 18, 2012:
9:30 A.M. – Pledge of Allegiance/Minutes
9:35 A.M. - Pete Daniel re Various Issues
9:45 A.M. - Public Comment/Media Questions re Agenda Items
9:50 A.M. - Executive Session re Labor Negotiations with Jack Meyers and Margaret Rudolph
Recess or adjourn
The agenda fulfills the very minimum requirement of an agenda. Sometimes there will be speakers listed on the agenda to give their reports to the county but no proposed legislation is to be found. Exactly what agenda item would the public be commenting on for the Oct. 18 agenda since there is no legislation listed?
At the County meetings, the public is allowed to comment on the agenda items only, no other subject of any concern is ever allowed to be brought up to the commissioners. If you have something of concern, you have to wait until after the meeting is over and then try and catch the commissioners if you can. Usually, an executive session follows the meeting so it is difficult to make contact with a commissioner after the meetings.
Granted, the elected officials do not have to allow the public to speak at all, but that doesn’t seem too receptive when trying to build a good relationship between the elected official and taxpayer next time they have to be elected back into office. It isn’t like there are a lot of the taxpayers attending the County meetings at 9:30 a.m. that the commissioners cannot allow someone to speak for a five minute allotted time on any concern or updates they would like to ask of the commissioners.
As for contacting the County Commissioners after business hours, there are no personal contact numbers listed on the website. Out of the three commissioners, only one commissioner is listed in the phone book. I think the commissioners could be more accessible by having their personal and business phone numbers posted on the website plus their individual county e-mail addresses. The only contact listed for the commissioners is posted on the website as a comment/suggestion section. The sender doesn’t know who is receiving the message.
Until next week, I hope the County Commissioners will continue to improve their website with the above suggestions and possibly post full and updated agency reports along with their budgets.