Each year, Sunshine Week promotes the importance of open government and freedom of information. A variety of agencies and organizations participate, including local government, news media, civic groups, libraries, nonprofits, schools and others interested in the public's right to know. Sunshine Week is held each year in March, coinciding with James Madison's birthday on March 16.
The City of Dover is an advocate for the public's right to know, and values transparency in all aspects of local government.
City Manager J. Michael Joyal, Jr. said the City strives to make information readily available to the public on a daily basis. The City's website, www.dover.nh.gov, updated daily, is a repository for thousands of documents, records and public information, including financial information, City reports, budget details, and meeting records. Few communities in the State of New Hampshire or across the nation make as much information available to the public as a matter of course.
"The City of Dover is committed to open government and transparency," Joyal said. "We will continue to promote openness and public participation in local government, recognizing that transparency is the foundation of public trust."
The nonprofit organization Sunshine Review maintains a database of state and local government agencies and their level of transparency, including a "Transparency Checklist".
The City of Dover meets or exceeds all of the items on that checklist. In recognition of Sunshine Week, and as a resource to the public, what follows is a look at how Dover stacks up on the transparency checklist, as well as a guide to the resources available to Dover residents, taxpayers and the public.
According to the Sunshine Review, residents and taxpayers need to be able to gauge whether local government is effective, competent, frugal with tax revenue, and in compliance with laws relating to public records and open meetings. The Sunshine Review benchmark is the availability of key information online.
According to the Sunshine Review, the city website should include comprehensive budget information, including the budget for the current fiscal year, budgets from previous years, and prominent navigational features enabling someone to locate the budget.
The City of Dover makes all proposed and adopted budgets, including supplemental material, available online. There are several resources to help residents navigate the budget process.
The Budget Revealed initiative is a resource that collects budget information from a variety of sources, in one central location. Budget Revealed can be accessed from the home page of the City's website. In addition to proposed and adopted budgets, the public can view budget presentations, video archives, infographics, as well as keep up to date on important meetings and City Council budget sessions.
Budget Revealed: http://www.dover.nh.gov/budgetrevealed_home.htm
To directly access adopted budgets and additional information, visit http://www.dover.nh.gov/fininfo_out.htm?id=FY2012%20Budget%20Process.
2. Government meetings and agendas
According to the Sunshine Review, the city's website should disclose all city government meetings and agendas, including the time of a meeting, place of a meeting, agendas for all meetings that fall under rules about open meetings, whether the meeting is open or closed, whether public input is allowed at the meeting and, if so, what the rules are that govern public input. The website should also contain meeting minutes, including audio and/or video recordings.
The City of Dover's website contains comprehensive information about meetings, including a calendar of upcoming meetings on the home page, including links to agendas and additional material.
The list of upcoming meetings can be accessed on the home page at http://www.dover.nh.gov.
In addition, a separate monthly calendar of upcoming meetings, including times and location, can be found at http://meetingcalendar.dover.nh.gov/.
Through the City of Dover's website, the public can access meeting minutes, agendas, votes, audio and video archives and thousands of related documents. All meeting minutes and additional material, including audio recordings, are uploaded to the City's database and made available to the public.
To access the archive, visit https://online.ci.dover.nh.us/energie/doverSearch.php.
To access a complete list of past City Council resolutions, click here: https://online.ci.dover.nh.us/energie/doverSearch2.php?cab=City_of_Dover_Resolutions&index=resolution_number.
The public can also view a list of documents and records relative to a specific board or commission here: http://www.dover.nh.gov/pastmeetingrecords.htm.
The City of Dover also now archives televised meetings and special events that appear on Channels 22 and 95. These meetings, including City Council, Planning Board and School Board meetings, can be found at http://www.dover.nh.gov/dntv.
3. Elected officials and elections
According to the Sunshine Review, the city's website should disclose key information about the city's elected officials, including their names, contact information (including phone numbers and e-mail addresses), terms of office and date of next election. Any financial disclosures and conflict-of-interest statements that the city requires of its elected officials should be posted online.
The City of Dover's website includes dedicated pages and resources about elected officials and elections.
Information about the Mayor and City Council, including contact and ward information, can be found at http://www.dover.nh.gov/elected.htm.
The City Council's procedural rules, which includes meetings, can be found at http://www.dover.nh.gov/execpdf/2012-2103%20Council%20Rules%20and%20Decorum%20Final%20Adopted%202012%2001%2004.pdf.
In addition, the City maintains a list of all current boards and commissions, including board members, terms and contact information, if available. The list can be found at http://www.dover.nh.gov/allboards.htm.
The City also makes available important election information, during an election and as an archival resource. In addition to elected officials, sample ballots and polling places, the website contains candidate financial disclosures, election results and voter registration resources.
Previous election results can be found here: dover.nh.gov/election_out.htm?id=Prior%20Election%20Results.
Other election information can be found here: http://www.dover.nh.gov/ccelection.htm.
The City also makes an online election guide available to residents at the time of an election. This guide is easily accessible from the home page.
Residents looking for information about their City Council ward representative, as well as congressional and state representatives, can visit this page: http://www.dover.nh.gov/locator.htm
4. Administrative officials
According to the Sunshine Review, the city's website should disclose key information about the city's appointed administrators, including their names and titles, as well as contact information.
The City of Dover's website contains detailed information about each City department, as well as contact information and titles.
Each department maintains a web page, which can be accessed from the City's home page by clicking on the drop-down menu bar at the top of the page, under "City Government".
A complete City directory can be found here: http://www.dover.nh.gov/city_directory.htm.
A complete list of City facilities, including address, hours of operation and contact information, can be found here: http://www.dover.nh.gov/facilities.htm.
In addition, the City also provides access to wages paid to all City employees. This searchable database can be accessed here: http://www.dover.nh.gov/budget_wages.htm.
5. Audits (financial/performance)
According to the Sunshine Review, if the city conducts financial and management audits to ensure it is operating in accordance with the highest standards of financial and management competence and integrity, it should provide copies of performance and financial audits on the city's website. Routine financial audits should be posted online.
The City of Dover makes available detailed financial information, including audits and financial reports.
The City's financial statements can be found at http://www.dover.nh.gov/fininfo.htm.
For more detailed financial information, including City audits, debt and credit ratings, and financial reports, visit http://www.dover.nh.gov/fininfo.htm.
The City also tracks and makes available a wide variety of operational statistics. To view the statistics, visit http://www.dover.nh.gov/specialprojects.htm.
Each year, City Manager J. Michael Joyal, Jr., delivers a state of the city address, providing a snapshot of current issues. Previous presentations can be accessed at http://www.dover.nh.gov/state.htm.
State of the City addresses are also televised and archived.
According to the Sunshine Review, the city's website should provide comprehensive information about the contracts it enters into with vendors. The rules the city must abide by when it enters into contracts with outside vendors should be posted on the city's website. When the city enters into a bidding process for larger contracts, the request for bids should be posted on the city's website. Publicly available information about the bids the city receives should be posted online, keyed to the request for bids the city has previously published. Specific contracts the city enters into with outside vendors for any amount over $10,000 should be posted online.
If elected officials of the city have received campaign contributions from any vendors who sell services to the city, this information should be posted on the city's website.
The City of Dover provides detailed public access to purchase orders and bid information. From the City's website, residents can view current and past purchase orders, as well as current bids, bid results, and vendor information.
A searchable list of purchase orders can be accessed here: http://www.dover.nh.gov/budget_pomonth.htm.
A list of current bids can be found here: http://www.dover.nh.gov/finbids.htm.
To view bid results, visit https://online.dover.nh.gov/energie/financeRequests.php.
Additional information, including frequently asked questions, and bid requirements, visit http://www.dover.nh.gov/finfaq.htm.
According to the Sunshine Review, if the city enters into a contract with a lobbyist or lobbying firm, full details of this arrangement must be posted on the city's website, including the name of the lobbyist or lobbying firm, the amount paid to the lobbyist or firm, and the legislation that the lobbyist is advocating for on the taxpayer's dime. If the city pays dues to belong to any lobbying associations, full details of these arrangements should be included on the city's website, including the name of the association, the amount paid in dues, and an identification of what positions that lobbying association is taking with the money it has received from the city's taxpayers via the dues paid to it by the city. If the city gives grants to nonprofit organizations, these grants should be disclosed on the city's website with a reason for the grant and information about who in the nonprofit organization is responsible for oversight and administration of the funds it has received from the city's taxpayers via a grant from the city.
The City is a member of the New Hampshire Municipal Association, an organization whose members consist of nearly every city and town in the State of New Hampshire. The NHMA advocates and represents the interests of the City and the municipalities before the State of New Hampshire Legislature, agencies and other public bodies. The positions and advocacy pursued by the NHMA on behalf of the City and other municipalities can be found by using this link from the City web site: http://www.nhlgc.org/nhma/advocacyservices.asp.
With the assistance of NHMA, the City does follow closely proposed legislation by the state Legislature, specifically legislation that may affect the City. Reports of proposed legislation are provided regularly by the City Manager, as well as a City Council liaison.
Membership dues are paid annually to the NHMA and are included in the annual budget and recorded as a purchase order viewable online via the financial and contract information sections.
The City is also a member of several professional associations. The membership fees for these organizations are listed as line items in each fiscal year's budget and recorded as a purchase orders viewable online via the financial and contract information sections.
The City does provide some financial support to nonprofit agencies. This assistance is detailed in the annual budget, as well as through other sources, including the Community Development Block Grant program.
8. Access to government records and public documents
According to the Sunshine Review, the city website should include comprehensive information about how citizens can obtain access to public records in the custody of the city. When a citizen wants to file an open records request, which employee of the city handles those requests? What is that employee's contact information? The city website should provide this information in a very easy-to-locate position on their website. The city website should lay out the procedure for a citizen to follow who wants access to public records. The information should be user-friendly.
Citizens seeking records not available online are welcome to request information of City staff. There are numerous types of requests which may be handled by staff members, individual departments or the City's legal counsel.
Typically, citizens are asked to file a public request form. The form can be downloaded at http://www.dover.nh.gov/forms/Public%20Info%20Request%20Form.pdf.
As stated on the form, governmental records are available within five business days, unless exempt from disclosure per the state's Right-to-Know law. Right-to-Know requests are typically handled by the City's legal counsel. The office of the City Legal Counsel does maintain information about the Right-to-Know law on the City's website.
To view the state's Right-to-Know law, visit http://www.dover.nh.gov/forms/NH%20State%20Statute%2091A.pdf.
In addition, the City's charter and ordinances are all available online for viewing.
To view the City Charter, visit http://www.dover.nh.gov/charter.htm.
To view City ordinances, visit http://www.dover.nh.gov/citycode.htm.