Four local municipalities were rated as part of the 2020 Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Government Transparency Project. The report cards issued earlier this week employ a variety of “big data methods” to evaluate city websites, scanning them for various online “transparency indicators” such as meeting agendas, budgets and independently audited financial statements.
“As officeholders, elected officials have a responsibility to share with their constituents information about the governments they oversee in a clear and timely fashion in order to enhance public knowledge of government actions,” a press release from MIT reads. “Government transparency influences how much trust constituents have in their elected officials and government generally.”
The project examines all United States cities with populations above 1,000, per 2010 U.S. Census data.
MIT researchers gave the City of Cartersville an A score, stating that the municipal website contains publicly accessible information on all six key indicators of the project, including council meeting minutes, public records requests instructions and details on public bids — defined by MIT as “invitations and awards of contracts the town makes with vendors for government sources.”
The City of Adairsville received a B rating, with MIT researchers indicating the municipal website lacks information on council meeting agendas or a recent comprehensive annual financial report (CAFR.)
The City of Emerson scored a C+. According to researchers, the local government’s website lacks information on the City budget, a recent CAFR or instructions on how residents may file records requests — defined in the project as "a form or description of information on how to obtain public documents or information."
Faring the worst was the City of Euharlee, which received a score of C. While researchers indicate the municipality’s website does contain information on meeting agendas and meeting minutes, it nonetheless lacks details on the City budget, public bids, any recent CAFRs or instructions on public records requests.
Per MIT, Euharlee’s transparency score is in the bottom 27 percent of all Georgia cities ranked for the project.
The Cities of Kingston and White were not included in the transparency project.
Overall, 96 city websites in Georgia received an A, while 18 received an F rating.
According to MIT, transparency “enhances accountability towards citizens,” with supplemental research indicating public accessibility to such documents also fosters “a culture of ethical behavior” among those holding elected offices.
“In addition to facilitating accountability, increased transparency can increase confidence in government,” the project website reads. “If a local government makes information about its decision-making and actions more easily available, this increased transparency can signal to the public that it is trustworthy.”