The Nassau County comptroller's office started off last week by making a meaningful but flawed improvement to the county's transparency: It posted all $700 million of Nassau's 2013 contracts online, with amounts, descriptions of work and vendor names, so that anyone who is interested could check them out.
But because the county's website is so poor, Comptroller George Maragos had the list posted as 42 "photos" on his office's Facebook page. And because they were posted in that format, they were neither searchable nor sortable, crucial elements to the journalists and interested citizens who like to explore such data.
To be sure, any such information posted online is an improvement for the often opaque government of Nassau County. Contracts with Suffolk, in comparison, can be searched on the county website by vendor and department.
Confronted with the shortcomings of the Facebook posting system, a spokesman at the comptroller's office said it was the best the staff could do. Then snarky derision mounted from the gadflies, we started pressing for answers and at least one think tank analyst offered to post the information properly on his website. So staff members at the comptroller's office wisely looked for options.
The result: They realized that by using a program and platform maintained by Google, they actually could post the information online in a manner that allowed people to search and sort the contracts. The link is bit.ly/nassauContracts
Next up for the comptroller's office, staffers say, is adding information on payments the county makes on those contracts. This is all positive. But it's also being accomplished via tortured methods, which suggests that the creation of a modern and workable website for Nassau County is long overdue.