West Valley City • The mayor and City Council announced Monday new transparency benchmarks that they say are designed to make West Valley City "the most accessible and transparent municipality in the state," drawing plaudits from open-government advocates.
The seven-point transparency standard calls for employee salaries to be posted online, candidates to submit financial disclosures on time, and elected officials to keep their Facebook privacy settings "open."
"The people of West Valley City can take great pride that the sun is shining brightly on their city government," Mayor Mike Winder said.
Winder noted that City Council meetings are broadcast live online, that he holds one-on-one "Milk with the Mayor" meetings with constituents and that his cell phone number and private e-mail address are on the West Valley website.
Changes to its website helped bump up the city's grade on the Sutherland Institute's government transparency report, from its previous B-minus to an A-plus. Derek Monson, manager of public policy for the conservative Utah think tank, said West Valley officials improved their grade by making information easily accessible online.
The institute's transparency checklist recommends a central page for information on city taxes and fees, the budget, contact information for elected leaders and city administrators, minutes of past city council meetings, financial audits of the city, and instructions for obtaining public information and building permits.
It also advises cities to disclose any lobbying organizations they have joined and contracts that the city has awarded to private businesses.
One contract West Valley City has not released: the deal Maverik Inc. cut for naming rights to the former E Center, owned by the city. A request by The Salt Lake Tribune for details was denied. Officials say the agreement was between Maverik and the private contractor that operates the arena for the city, and that the city has no document in its possession about the terms.
Monday's announcement comes as outrage mounts over a new state law restricting public access to government records. Winder said West Valley will continue to consider texts, instant messages and other electronic communications to be public even if the law goes into effect on July 1; some legislators now say they plan to repeal the law.
West Valley's standards also acknowledge that public agencies sometimes have to foot the bill to fulfill record requests, and urged the Legislature to develop reasonable charges that protect both taxpayers and the free flow of public information.
"Open and transparent government is good government," Linda Petersen, president of the Utah Foundation for Open Government, said in a written statement. "We encourage other communities in the Salt Lake Valley and throughout Utah to follow suit and to bring local government out into the sunshine."
West Valley City transparency standard
Texts, instant messages, and other electronic communications are considered public documents.
Names and salaries of government employees are public.
The mayor and council members' schedules of public events are posted on the city website.
All elected officials who blog and are on Facebook are committed to keeping their privacy settings "open."
The council will change ordinances that say city candidates who fail to submit their campaign financial disclosures on time "may" be removed from the ballot to "shall" be removed.
The Legislature is encouraged to set reasonable charges to fulfill records requests that protect both taxpayers and the free flow of public information.
The city meets the Sutherland Institute's 10 recommendations for an open and transparent website.