CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- West Virginia's government websites rank worst in the nation when it comes to transparency, according to a report from an advocacy group released Thursday.
The report by Sunshine Review, a Virginia-based nonprofit group that promotes openness among state and local governments, graded websites based on information available to the public on the sites.
The organization has reviewed 31 states so far this year, and West Virginia earned a C overall -- a meshing of the state government website, which graded out well, and city and county websites, which did not.
The state website earned an A-minus. The organization praised the website for having a search function and providing contact information for agencies and elected officials. The report also mentioned that the website posts budgets, contracts and audits.
The group also looked at the websites for West Virginia's five largest cities and counties, and the 10 largest school districts.
Websites for Kanawha County, Kanawha County schools and Putnam County schools all got failing grades. The city of Charleston's website got a D-minus.
But local officials contend the Sunshine Review missed their websites' efforts at transparency.
Kristin McMurray, a managing editor with Sunshine Review, said the general rule for her website reviewers is, "If they can't find something in five minutes, mark it as missing." She said a citizen is only going to search for something for 30 seconds to a minute, so information is as good as not there if it can't be found.
The Sunshine Review report slammed the Kanawha County website for its lack of information about elected officials, the year's budget, lobbying, taxes and audits.
Kanawha County Commission President Kent Carper said he thinks there's a lot the Sunshine Review group doesn't know about. For one, he said, there aren't registered lobbyists in the county.
He also mentioned that the county's website posts employees' salaries and gives notice about public meetings and streams them online.
"Maybe they didn't see that part," he said.
Carper also said audits are conducted in public each year and should be easily available.
But he acknowledged the Kanawha County website, like any website, could be improved.
"Could it be more user-friendly?" he asked. "I'll give you that one."
The report cited the Putnam County Schools website for not posting contact information for board members, a budget, and information about public records requests, taxes, contracts, audits, academic performance, and background checks.