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October 6, 2015

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Las Vegas government gets low marks on transparency


Leila Navidi

Mayor Carolyn Goodman delivers the State of the City address at Las Vegas City Hall on Thursday, January 10, 2013.

The city of Las Vegas received low grades for its transparency when it comes to posting details of its spending online, according to a new study released Wednesday by the United States Public Interest Research Group Education Fund.

The nonprofit group awarded Las Vegas a “D” grade for its transparency, ranking the city 20th out of the 30 largest cities in the country, three spots below Los Angeles and one spot below Phoenix.

The report evaluated cities based on how easily public records, like expenditures, vendor contracts and tax subsidies, can be found online.

Las Vegas provides basic budget documents such as its Comprehensive Annual Financial Report to the public through its website, but fails to provide “check book” level accounting that provides information on individual budget items, the report found.

To improve, U.S. PIRG suggests implementing a central site online where residents can go to find public records. It further suggests that line-item budget expenditures, vendor contracts and tax subsidies over multiple years be compiled into a searchable and downloadable database for the public to use.

“Las Vegas provides limited online access to government expenditure information beyond basic budget documents and lags behind many other major U.S. cities when it comes to comprehensive spending transparency,” Erin Larkin, Western States Field Organizer for the nonprofit group, said in a statement. “The ability to see how government spends its funds is fundamental to democracy. Transparency in government spending checks corruption, bolsters public confidence, improves responsiveness, and promotes greater effectiveness and fiscal responsibility,” said Larkin.

Two cities, Chicago and New York City, received A grades in the study, while San Francisco received an A-minus.

Five cities received failing grades for transparency, including Atlanta, St. Louis, Detroit, Cleveland and Sacramento.

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