State agencies are using the web to hide “Public” notices

Jay Nolan
Jay Nolan

It’s easy to hide things on the web, even if you don’t mean to do so!

Today more and more agencies funded by our tax dollars are not putting their financial information in the newspaper. Two examples came up again just this week.

They are the Knox County Tourism and Knox Extension Service. Both of these are fine agencies, and have good people working for them.

I know personally the Knox County Tourism director, Denise Wainscot, is a big supporter of keeping the public informed. And, in an effort to be transparent, the tourism commission sent us a notice for this week’s paper. It let everyone know that their audit results were available on line, and financials were available at their office.

But, no matter how hard we tried, we could not access their documents! We tried the link from a regular PC, a Mac computer, heck even an iPhone. All three devices were unable to connect to the audit info.

Turns out, the link just takes you to the Department of Local Government website. You have to know which option of many to choose there to get to the area where the legal notices are. And unfortunately, the state has not yet even posted online the info Denise sent them! We called to find this out. So, the state has taken the process from confusing, to frustrating to downright impossible to find. Providing a link to nowhere – is that really open government?

Now, compare that to when we print something in the newspaper. It’s there in black and white. It does not require a special software package, specific browser, or other special device. You don’t have to go back to a computer and input a long URL full of letters. It can’t be changed later. You just open the paper and read it. Simple and effective.

So why don’t all agencies just put their public notices, budgets, and financial reports into the newspaper? Don’t we taxpayers have a right to know how our tax dollars are spent? If I didn’t know the tourism folks so well, I would wonder what they are trying to hide.

Some bureaucrats at the state say the goal is simple – to save a few tax dollars in “advertising” costs. After all, we at the newspaper do get a few bucks from such ads.

Well, an American Opinion research surveys says, over 89% of you prefer to see such notices printed in the newspaper. So, why should taxpayers have to work and dig just to find out what their government is up to? Isn’t your time valuable? Plus, public agency officials supposedly work for us! How would your boss react if he asked for a report on his desk, but you said, “Hey boss, about that report you wanted. Here’s the URL. Go look it up and print it off yourself.”

In America, taxpayers should be boss. So, I think ALL public agencies should put their notices and financial info in the paper. I think if they are truly serving us, they should have nothing to hide.

What do you think?