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City website first in state, county 18th for openness

The City of Vision’s website has been recognized for its transparency and accessibility.

The New Mexico Foundation for Open Government published the results of a statewide study Wednesday, grading every city and county website based on information available.

The City of Rio Rancho government site scored the highest of the 31 municipal websites reviewed, scoring 84 points out of 100.

Rio Rancho was followed by Albuquerque with 83 points. Bernalillo, with 35 points, and Corrales, with 41, ranked in the bottom half of the cities’ list.

Sandoval County was near the bottom half of the county list, ranked 18 out of 28 counties reviewed, with 40 points. Bernalillo County topped the list with 83 points.

The comprehensive study was the first of its kind for FOG, said Susan Boe, president of NMFOG. The organization graded each website on six points: accountability, public meetings, contact information, public records, website functionality and frequently sought information. Boe said the grading scale was based off a similar report conducted in Florida.

The study was conducted in February and March, before being updated in July, and was done with help from Frank Cardoza, a University of New Mexico law student and NMFOG legal intern.

Boe said she wasn’t surprised some of the state’s bigger cities and counties received higher scores, saying they possibly had more resources to operate websites.

“One of the things we might suggest for smaller communities is to maybe get volunteers involved in the project to try to keep their website up to date,” she said. “If it were me and I was in a city or county that didn’t score well, I would take the matrix and look at the things we don’t have on our website so it becomes a checklist. I would want to get that information on the website.”

Mayor Gregg Hull was pleased with the report’s findings, saying city staff has worked hard to keep the website updated.

“The goal of the city is to get as much information on that website as possible,” he said. “I know that our staff works hard to get as much information as possible so that the people of Rio Rancho know what’s going on with their government.”

County Commissioner Don Chapman commented on the study’s findings during Thursday’s county commission meeting, saying the county should aspire to do better.

“I was really hoping that we had done a lot better than we did,” Chapman said.

Chapman recommended the county work with NMFOG to improve its site.

“The best part about all this is this organization doesn’t just exist to be a watchdog, they’re also an organization that’s willing to partner with you to improve how well you’re doing with transparency and open government,” he said. “I think it would be a useful thing for us to take on as a county. We want to be No. 1 as a county in terms of open government.”

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