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Mon Commissioner Sikora: ‘Transparency is not a soundbite’

Monongalia County didn’t hold anything back Thursday afternoon.

Nor did Kanawha, Summers and Jefferson counties.

Elkins and Parkersburg kicked it all back, also.

If you want to know what elected officials are doing with your tax dollars in those locales, State Auditor J.B. McCuskey has some links he’d love to share.

There’s, which tracks state spending.

And, or Project Mountaineer, a listing of other expenditures which operates through the OpenGov accountability website.

To date, 40 counties in West Virginia have signed on with OpenGov.

Monongalia was the first.

McCuskey was in Morgantown on Thursday afternoon to do a little some celebrating — while also reiterating just what the fuss is all about.

Now more than ever, it’s time to throw open the books, the auditor said.

“We live in a world today where a lack of trust in government has never been more widespread,” McCuskey said.

“That’s not a local government problem,” he continued.

“That’s not a state government problem, that’s not a national government problem, that’s an American problem.”

Which calls for accountability, he said.

“There’s only one real way to rebuild that bridge. That’s to look at every taxpayer in West Virginia and say, ‘I’m gonna tell you what I did.’”

Zac Bookman, meanwhile, will happily tell you what he did.

The Yale-educated Maryland native co-founded the company and incorporated it in 2012 from its headquarters in Redwood City, Calif.

That was after serving as a civilian advisor in Afghanistan, where he played a key role in a military group monitoring corruption.

He was also a trial litigator, a Fulbright fellow in Mexico (again studying corruption) and a guy from the outside at California’s notorious San Quentin Prison, where he taught a class in American government for inmates.

With a professional bent to shine the light on corruption, he was also thinking about simple efficiency.

Streamlining the process and bringing it the latest technology.

OpenGov was designed to make record-keeping and spreadsheets that much easier and accessible. Palo Alto make his eyes pop.

The city hailed as the unofficial capital of Silicon Valley was OpenGov’s first client.

He found municipal government workers there laboring with outdated technology and inefficient bookkeeping and other keeping of the records.

“And this was Silicon Valley,” he said after taking the microphone to speak at the gathering held in the Morgantown Marriott at Waterfront Place.

He flew in to help McCuskey mark those 40 Mountain State counties.

“Could not believe it,” he said.

“But it’s everywhere. Even in Palo Alto.”

On this end of the country, he enjoyed dealing with a West Virginia cross-section on the autumn afternoon.

Monongalia County commissioners Sean Sikora and Tom Bloom were present, as were Lance Wheeler, Ted Kula and Tricia Jackson — their counterparts on the commissions of Kanawha, Summers and Jefferson counties, respectively.

Mayor Jerry Marco of Elkins (accompanied by city treasurer Tracy Judy) made an appearance with Tom Joyce, the mayor of Parkersburg.

All had OpenGov testimonials to share.

The watchword of the day was, “transparency.” No conflicts, if taxpayers know what you’re doing, they said.

Or, maybe not as many, they added.

“Transparency is not a soundbite,” Sikora said.

“It’s really about integrity and making sure the public knows exactly what you’re doing with their dollars.”

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