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County IT department rewarded for letting ‘sunshine’ in

The Clayton County Board of Commissioners presented a proclamation to the county's IT department Tuesday to celebrate its 2012 Sunny Award from the Sunshine Review.

The Clayton County Board of Commissioners presented a proclamation to the county's IT department Tuesday to celebrate its 2012 Sunny Award from the Sunshine Review.

— Clayton County’s information technology department recently won a website transparency award for following advice from the cast of the musical “Hair.”

They are less hippie and more tech savvy, but the recognition from the Sunshine Review came about because they “let the sunshine in.” The department won one of the review’s 2012 Sunny Awards for public transparency through its website and it is one of only three counties in Georgia to receive a perfect score on their evaluation.

The other perfect scores were awarded to Cobb and Henry counties, IT Director Brett Lavender said. In all, eight counties across Georgia received Sunny Awards this year.

“This award has existed for three years and this is the third year that we’ve received it — and we’ve received a perfect score each year,” Lavender added.

The IT department was recognized by the county Commission Tuesday with a proclamation recognizing its accomplishments. Lavender said the team responsible for maintaining the county’s website includes IT department employees Dennis Higgins, Peggy Lacy, Edgar Vega, Jennifer Brown, Thuc Le and Carol Chaste.

Commission Clerk Shelby Haywood publicly read the proclamation, which states the Sunshine Review analyzes websites for information about a wide range of areas including budgets, meetings, county officials, zoning, audits, contracts and taxes. The county’s website was among one of 6,000 sites reviewed by the awards committee and ranks in the top percentile of recipients, the proclamation states.

“The information technology department is honored by Clayton County during the nationally recognized ‘Sunshine Week,’ March 11-17, for its outstanding achievement and accomplishments awarded by the Sunshine Review and Sunny Awards,” Haywood said.

Lavender explained the county’s website provides the information that it has because residents of the county demanded it during a website upgrade process a few years ago.

“We’ve been doing a lot of research and we re-did the website a few years ago and had public input on our website,” Lavender said. “The public actually came and actually gave us ideas about the colors they liked, the information they wanted to see and the things they do the most on the website.”

Lavender explained the requirements for getting a perfect score are set to change “in the near future” so governments will soon have to provide additional information, such pension plan details, on their websites. He said the state will be required to make that change before the counties have to provide that information.

Despite that, Clayton County’s IT team is already working to get that information on the county website by the time the state has to begin providing it.

“We’ll try to go ahead and get in line with what they expect to see from the state level so we’ll already be in compliance,” Lavender said.