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Utah's Right to Know
Donald Meyers
Donald W. Meyers writes about open-government issues for The Salt Lake Tribune. He is also the site manager of utahsright.com, the Tribune's online database of public records. He is also a member of the Society of Professional Journalists' National Freedom of Information Committee and sits on the board of directors of the Utah Foundation for Open Government.

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Not all entities are posting on Utah’s Transparency website

Since 2009, Utahns have been able to log on to a state website and see how much public employees are paid, as well as what agencies and governments were spending.

The goal behind the Transparent Utah website was to make government more, well, transparent. And in some ways it helps. Entities with budgets in excess of $1 million are required to post their books on the site.

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But, as was discussed during Tuesday’s Transparency Advisory Board meeting, and heavy users of the site know, not everyone is doing that.

For example, out of 272 counties, municipalities and service districts that were supposed to start reporting their payroll in 2011, 11 have failed to do so. Out of 146 charter schools, colleges and universities, school districts and transit districts, eight have not provided payroll data.

Overall, nearly a third of the entities required to report did not submit 2012 salary data.

Darrell Swensen, the state’s transparency coordinator, said he didn’t think it was malice driving the lack of response. He said it was a matter of priorities for some entities. In other cases, the job passed from one person to another, the responsibility for posting the data eventually forgotten.

But the law does not provide any penalties for agencies that don’t get their payroll records online within the first quarter of a new fiscal year. Right now, the only enforcement mechanism is Swensen encouraging them to post, and providing a template to help them do it.

To really punish the delinquent entities would require revising the law, and Senate President Wayne Niederhauser, who drafted the law and chairs the transparency advisory board, said that is not likely to happen.

"I would rather take the passive approach," Niederhauser said.

John Reidhead, the board’s vice chairman, suggested one way to bring the delinquents to heel is to have a statement put in their annual audit reports that they were not posting the information.

Another option, floated by Robert Woolley, with the state’s Department of Technology Service, was to create a "wall of shame" on the state site, highlighting which agencies are not turning in their data. He envisioned a box on the site’s homepage, showing the logo and the name of the offending entities.

The only drawback to that is that only site users will see who’s listed as delinquent, and the transparency site is not exactly a hub of Internet activity. This idea is sort of akin to pillorying someone in a private courtyard.

But to help shine the spotlight on the problem, here is a list of some of the entities that should be posting on the transparency site, but are falling behind, and fiscal year last posted online.

Box Elder County (2011)

Coalville (no data)

Duchesne (2011)

Fairview (2011)

Green River (2011)

Helper (2011)

Holladay (2011)

Kamas (2011)

Kanab (2011)

La Verkin (2011)

Lindon (2011)

Monticello Academy (no data uploaded)

Payson (2011)

Panguitch (2011)

Provo School District (2010)

South Ogden (2011)



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