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WCOG Postpones 2021 Sunshine Awards Event

Dear Friends and Supporters of WCOG,

After much reflection, we decided out of an abundance of caution to POSTPONE the Sunshine Breakfast and Awards Program until March of 2022.

We have all been eagerly anticipating our 2021 Sunshine Breakfast and Awards program at T-Mobile Park, home of the Seattle Mariners, scheduled for Friday, Sept. 17. But as the excitement continued to build, so, unfortunately did COVID cases in our state. As that happened, we worked on mitigation measures we thought would keep our guests safe. The state is under a mandatory mask order and we talked about adding tables and moving guests to increase social distancing. We were also planning to have all the windows open in the event space. But in the past two weeks, we watched as COVID infections, hospitalizations, and deaths in Washington kept spiking. In the end, we felt it was better to be safe than sorry and to postpone this event.

But here is the good news: 2022 is the 20th anniversary of the founding of the Coalition and March 18, 2022 falls during Sunshine Week so we have the perfect opportunity to promote this event and celebrate in style. We have a great venue. We have a great program. We have great heroes of transparency to honor. We have sponsors and we have

great support for the event. We just need to wait a few more months before we feel it is safe to gather in person once again to celebrate open and honest government.

We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause our guests but we are confident this is the very best way to go forward in these uncertain times as we look to keep everyone safe and healthy during an ongoing global pandemic. In the coming months, we will be talking about this event and raising the level of excitement once again as we look forward to a healthier and safer Spring event.

Thank you and we will see you in March.

Juli Bunting, Executive Director
Washington Coalition for Open Government

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WCOG renews request for Seattle ethics report

WCOG sent a second open letter to Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan urging transparency in recent Seattle records requests

From WCOG President Mike Fancher: “I am writing again on behalf of the Washington Coalition for Open Government to urge you to waive attorney-client privilege and release the unredacted investigative report regarding your text messages.

I wrote to you on May 18 to express WCOG’s deep concern at the Ethics and Elections Commission finding that your counsel Michelle Chen violated the Public Records Act by narrowly interpreting requests to exclude your text messages. Equally concerning were the revelations that you allowed ten months of your text messages to be destroyed and that this destruction was concealed from records requesters.

My letter urged you to release the unredacted ethics report to the public. You chose not to do that, saying on KUOW that you would “leave it to the lawyers.”  That response was unacceptable then and is even more so now.  Click here for the full letter

WCOG chides governor for Sunshine Committee appointment

The Washington Coalition for Open Government on Aug. 11, 2021 protested Gov. Jay Inslee’s appointment of a San Juan County Council member to the state Sunshine Committee to a position intended for “a member of the public.”

The appointee, San Juan County Council Member Jamie Stephens, is San Juan County’s public records officer, putting him in the position of being the gatekeeper for his own accountability to the public. Also, San Juan County has a poor transparency track record.  Click here for the full statement.

Mountlake Terrace student wins annual essay contest

Merik Robles, 16, a student at Archbishop Murphy High School, in Everett is the winner of the 2-21 Scott Johnson High School Essay Contest. His essay, “Government Records — Advancing the Cause of Justice,” examined the need for government transparency in light of the death of Manual Ellis while in police custody. Three Tacoma police officers were charged in his death and await trial.

“The public has the right to know how police use their power and to examine the appropriateness of policing tactics and use of force,” Robles wrote. “Mr. Ellis’ death illustrates the importance of government transparency.”

WCOG administers the annual contest, which is sponsored by Seattle law firm Stokes Lawrence and comes with a $1,000 cash prize for the winner.

Click below to learn about the 2021 winners of WCOG’s Madison-Andersen-Bunting Awards:

Toby Nixon

Toby Nixon, longtime president of the Washington Coalition for Open Government, is the recipient of the 2021 James Madison Award in recognition to his ongoing commitment to transparency and accountability in government, through his service with the Coalition and beyond.

Nixon is currently president emeritus of the Coalition, after serving as WCOG president from 2007 to 2021. Under his leadership, the organization has grown into one of the most effective state coalitions in the country.

“He personifies the spirit of citizen activism and vigilance that has been essential to resist the forces that work against openness and transparency,” said Mike Fancher, current president and longtime board member.  See additional information about Toby Nixon here.

Ed Clark, a 10-year member of the board of the Washington Coalition for Open Government, is being honored with the 2021 James Andersen Award for his outstanding service to the organization.

“Ed is the person behind the scenes who keeps everything moving,” said Mike Fancher, president of the WCOG board. “He solves problems before they become problems. He has been a vocal and tireless supporter of WCOG’s mission.”

Clark is executive professional of Clark, Raymond & Co., the firm he cofounded in 1991, and which is also recognized with this award for the many ways in which it supports the coalition’s mission, Fancher noted.  See additional information about Ed Clark here.

The Washington Coalition for Open Government is presenting its 2021 Bunting Award to the staff of The Seattle Times for aggressively reporting on the city of Seattle’s mishandling of public records and for holding public officials to account – to the point of suing City Hall.

In May 2021, an investigation prompted by a whistleblower complaint disclosed that months of the mayor’s text messages were missing and her office had mishandled public records and requests for disclosure.

Over the next eight weeks The Times published an additional five news stories, an editorial and a column on the city’s flawed public records operation. The news stories broke new ground, while the opinion pieces provided interpretation and meaning. Learn more about the Times’ coverage and read its reports here. 

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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