MADISON - West Virginia State Auditor JB McCuskey celebrated Boone County's full participation in a new transparency website with a visit to County Clerk Roger Toney's office on Thursday to officially launch the new element to county government.
McGuskey said he was pleased that the county was at the forefront of the movement that will allow citizens and the media to have much easier access to information, including checks and balances.
"It shows that it is a good day in the coalfields," McCuskey said. "You have a group of people here from the county commissioners, the clerk and hopefully the school board that are interested in showing their constituents how their money is being spent. There is a long history of political corruption in many places, to be quite frank, and this new breed of elected officials are interested in rooting that out. I think they see as I do that transparency is the key to preventing fraud and making sure that the people have control over their government."
McCuskey said he has learned that the process is ultimately simple once officials commit to it.
"I've learned that this is by all reasonable measures an easy process," he said. "I feared it might be difficult for our clerks to learn, but this is our third site up in the state and it has come back to me that this is days - not months - so I feel comfortable asking our county governments, school boards and cities to come on board and it is something they can handle for a positive result for the public."
The new site, developed by McCuskey's office along with OpenGov, would allow open and free discovery of all revenue and spending for the state of West Virginia. OpenGov, founded in 2012, is used by more than 1,800 public agencies in 48 states.
To view the site, go to boonecountyclerkwv.com and click on the links tab. You'll find it as the first link listed on the page.
Using the site will take a little bit of time to learn but the CVN has been using it for several days and has concluded that anyone with intermediate computer skills can navigate the template rather quickly and go back through five years of county financial records.
"We've had a great day in Boone County today and we met with the finance officers in (the cities of) Madison and Danville and they are enthusiastically on board with the project," McCuskey added. "When you look at the overall impact, Boone County is leading the way here. We're excited about the enthusiasm for the site."
Boone County Clerk Roger Toney, along with former Boone County Deputy Clerk Jessica Kirk and Chief Deputy Pam Johnson, worked on the project but it is Kirk, who recently accepted a new position with McCuskey's office, who made the project come to life. She created the base and communicated with OpenGov through the implementation process.
"We already miss Jessica but we wish her the very best," said Toney. "There is a cost to this but the auditor's office is absorbing the cost. There is a cost for keeping it up and the support. McCuskey told me himself that they would absorb the cost because they felt it was that important. It will be updated around the middle of each month. Pam Johnson and I both have access to it and will both be able to update it. It will likely take about a half-hour or so per month. I want our citizens to explore the site and feel free to ask questions as we are all learning new elements about it every day."
No one from the Boone County Commission's office attended the launch, but two of the three commissioners were made aware of the launch by McCuskey's office via voicemail and Facebook messenger.
Reporter Phil Perry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @philipdperry.