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How transparent is new city website?

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DENVER -- The city and county of Denver is offering taxpayers real time information about its spending for the last five years. A newly created website called Transparent Denver gives you the option of looking at where Denver’s $900 million annual budget is being spent.

“When people are curious, they should have access to this information,” said Deputy Mayor Cary Kennedy. She told FOX31 Denver the mayor made a campaign promise to citizens in his State of the City address last year and it’s finally becoming a reality.

“I am a public servant. The cabinet, city employees, we all are public servants and this is public taxpayer money,” Kennedy said.

FOX31 Denver began looking at the website, located on Denvergov.org to see how transparent the information would be for taxpayers.

The site, which does show payout and reimbursements to employees, lacks some critical information according to Luis Toro of Colorado Ethics Watch -- a local non-profit aimed at holding government officials accountable.

“There are some issues with the database, where you realize, where you have a certain amount of information that there is more information that you want that may or may not be there,” said Toro.

For example, if you pull Kennedy’s expense reimbursement for the months of April and May you will see she was paid out $1860.50. The expenditure only states it’s for travel expenses and doesn’t give more details, like if it was for airline tickets, cabs or dinners.

“I think a lot of people will say, OK you got reimbursed $1,861 for this trip, but we don't know if you went to the Four Seasons for dinner. We don't know if you had wine on the taxpayers dime. So how can we improve the system? So, it's more transparent?,” asked FOX31 Denver Investigative Reporter Tak Landrock.

“It's a great question,” said Kennedy. “There should be a category in there that says travel, but you can't see that I went to California or New York for an investor’s conference. Obviously there is going to be some detail that is missing.”

FOX31 Denver also questioned $1.6 million dollars spent using credit cards, which again, doesn’t show what specifically city employees are purchasing. Kennedy said putting up more information, like credit card statements, could boggle down the webpage, but said taxpayers who have questions can email the city to get more details.

Toro said while this is a great start, leaders still need to help expand the taxpayers right to know.

“I think you can always get more web capacity. The computers are getting more powerful and people's internet speeds are getting better," Toro said. "Technology is very good in this area to solve those problems.”