Majority of local municipalities, authorities fail open government report card

Mar 13, 2018

As the nation marks Sunshine Week, the Buffalo Niagara Coalition for Open Government is releasing its report card on the websites of local governments - and the grades are not good.

In 2017, the Coalition gave 14 of 16 municipality websites in Erie and Niagara counties a grade of F due to their failure to post meeting agendas and minutes in a timely fashion, display Freedom of Information Act information and post financial disclosure forms for elected officials.

Amherst received a top grade of 77 out of 100 points, followed by Wheatfield with 75.5 points in 2017.

The two towns lead the pack again this year, although Wheatfield is now first with a score of 80 and Amherst a close second with a score of 79. Overall for 2018, 10 of 16 local governments still received a failing grade.

This year for the first time, the Coalition also graded the websites of 14 local authorities, including the Erie County Water Authority, Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority and Niagara Falls Water Board: 13 of the 14 failed with a score of 65 or below.

Only the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority passed, earning a C+ with 75 points.

The Coalition is calling for amendments to the New York State Open Meetings Law and an audit by the state comptroller to help ensure local governments are complying.

In 2005, the American Society of Newspaper Editors launched the first national Sunshine Week, "a celebration of access to public information that has been held every year since to coincide with the March 16 birthday of James Madison, father of the U.S. Constitution and a key advocate of the Bill of Rights."