Wednesday, April 13, 2016
NJFOG Study Finds Local Authorities Disregarding Online Transparency Law
For Immediate Release:
Only 11 percent of New Jersey’s independent local authorities are in full compliance with an online transparency law that took effect on February 1, 2013, according to a study released by the New Jersey Foundation for Open Government (NJFOG).
In 2011, the Office of the State Comptroller released findings that showed only three percent of 587 local government agencies posted financial data online, and more than a third had no online presence. Following release of the report, the New Jersey Legislature passed an online transparency law, which set forth 11 requirements that local government agencies must meet. These requirements include having an online presence and posting basic information such as minutes, resolutions, budgets and meeting notices.
In what is the first study of online compliance since the Comptroller’s report was published, NJFOG examined 436 local agencies. The report provides a snap shot of compliance at one particular point in time (July 2015) and recognizes that agencies can make changes to existing websites or build new ones.
The study found that, although 95 percent of the local government entities maintain an online presence, only 11 percent, or 48, are fully complaint with all 11 requirements.
One legal requirement is that local agencies post meeting notices online. NJFOG’s study found that only 281, or 64 percent, of the 436 agencies studied are in compliance with this requirement. The law also requires that agencies post their meeting minutes and adopted resolutions for the current calendar year. Only 153, or 35 percent, post this information online.
“There is currently no mechanism in the online transparency law that would allow citizens to bring enforcement actions to improve compliance,” said NJFOG president Walter Luers, who hopes that NJFOG’s study will encourage an amendment to the Act that contains such a provision.
“New Jersey’s independent agencies collectively control hundreds of millions in public funding. They have an obligation to be as transparent as possible in how they are managing those tax dollars,” Luers said. Yet the study found that only 55 percent of local agencies post their three most recent budgets online, as required by the law.
The New Jersey Foundation for Open Government (NJFOG) is the only non-profit organization in the state dedicated solely to improving public access to governmental records and meetings. We work to educate the public about the Open Public Records Act and Open Public Meetings Act as well as increase governmental compliance, transparency, and accountability.