Cayuga County government has not had the greatest track record when it comes to providing important information on its website in a timely manner. Last year's failure to post a draft of the budget while it was being reviewed and discussed by the Legislature was the most recent clear example of this truth.
But since new Administrator J. Justin Woods came aboard toward the end of December, there's been a considerable effort to fix that shortcoming. A couple of big changes became visible last week.
One involves records related to the Cayuga County Legislature's committee meetings. While agendas for those meetings have generally been put on the county website, the reports and full resolutions behind all of the items listed on the agenda were not.
For a county with a $146 million budget, it shouldn't be too much trouble to make the materials prepared for elected legislators also accessible online to the general public.
New York's Open Meetings Law even requires it:
"Agency records available to the public ... as well as any proposed resolution, law, rule, regulation, policy or any amendment thereto, that is scheduled to be the subject of discussion by a public body during an open meeting shall be made available, upon request therefor, to the extent practicable as determined by the agency or the department, prior to or at the meeting during which the records will be discussed. ... If the agency in which a public body functions maintains a regularly and routinely updated website and utilizes a high speed internet connection, such records shall be posted on the website to the extent practicable as determined by the agency or the department, prior to the meeting."
The public now has easier access to reports, resolutions and other information its Cayuga County elected officials discuss on a monthly basis …
The good news is that Woods, with the hard work and support of county staff, are taking this matter seriously and have now posted all of these materials for February meetings.
Another effort at transparency initiated under Woods' leadership is the completion and online posting of a monthly county government operations report. The first report, for the month of January, is packed with interesting and timely details from all county government departments.
We laud the county for these steps forward, and encourage officials to stick with this effort and continue to look for ways they can improve transparency (one suggestion is to go through Legislature minutes and fill a few gaps for missing meetings).
We also encourage county legislators to take this effort back to the leaders in their respective districts. As much as we've blasted Cayuga County's website over the years, many town and village sites are incredibly uninformative. Supervisors, town board members, mayors and trustees ought to follow Cayuga County's lead and bring their communication methods up to current standards and in compliance with the law.
The Citizen Editorial Board includes publisher Rob Forcey, managing editor Mike Dowd and executive editor Jeremy Boyer.