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Journalist shines light on retirement pensions, legislator-lobbyist relations using public records

Mike Baker and Austin Jenkins Key Award Profile
By Alisa Gramann

When Mike Baker filed public records requests in Olympia as a reporter for The Associated Press, he wasn’t looking for shocking revelations so much as he was trying to understand the way government worked in and around Washington’s capital.

His curiosity and questioning led to two investigative projects, each of which won a Key Award from the Washington Coalition for Open Government for their promotion of access to government activity, and ran in newspapers throughout the state.

One was a three-part series on pension and benefits collected by public employees in Washington.

Through his requests and an online database with retirement information, Mike found that some public employees, including firefighters and police officers, had disproportionate pensions and big benefits. Further, Mike found that some were collecting disability benefits despite being physically fit and working other jobs.

The story had many threads and Mike worked on it for nearly two years before it was published. The series began running on April 7, 2013, and Mike continued to follow the story until December…. continue reading.

Transparency and public participation are building blocks of good government.

The Coalition was formed to act as an independent, non-partisan, non-profit organization dedicated promoting and defending the People’s right to know in matters of public interest and in the conduct of the public’s business. The Coalition’s driving vision is to help foster open government processes, supervised by an informed and engaged citizenry, which is the cornerstone of democracy.

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