Rachel Alexander, Salem Reporter
Rachel Alexander is a staff reporter at the Spokesman-Review in Spokane, Washington, where she covers health and social services, as well as being the resident staff data geek. She graduated from Whitman College in 2013 with a degree in politics and environmental studies and previously worked at the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin.
Rachel has used public records to report on everything from nurses dying of opioid overdoses to roadkill salvaging on the state’s highways. She’s passionate about machine-readable document formats, crashing Excel with massive spreadsheets and #FOIAFriday.
Matt Beaton, Franklin County Auditor
9816 W Court St
Pasco, WA 99301
Matt Beaton is the elected Franklin County Auditor and has served in that position since January 2011. In his time as Auditor he has served as Co-Chair for the Washington State Association of County Auditors Legislation Committee and has been recognized with a statewide award for Voter Outreach by the Washington Secretary of State. Matt is credited with leading his department in uncovering and cleaning up the largest and longest fraud in state government history and delivering the transparency and accountability of a rare private sector performance audit of a government operation. He graduated from the University of Washington in 1991 with a BA Degree in Business Administration. Having earned his Real Estate License at 19 and later his appraisal certification he went on to work for 16 years in the real estate valuation field in the corporate and small business settings prior to running for office. He is currently a member of Pasco Kiwanis Club.
Matt lives in Pasco, WA with his wife and family.
“In my time as Franklin County Auditor we have uncovered the largest and longest fraud in state government history and delivered the transparency and accountability of a private sector performance audit of a government operation. The positive results of both of these are directly related to the accountability that comes from transparency and your governments willingness to prioritize it.”
Casey Bruner, Witherspoon Kelley
422 W. Riverside Ave, Ste 1100
Spokane, WA 99201
Casey M. Bruner is an attorney at the law firm of Witherspoon Kelley in Spokane, Washington. Casey represents clients in civil matters at all levels of government, including trial, appellate and administrative courts. He has successfully represented individuals, small businesses, municipalities, and Fortune 500 companies in a broad spectrum of subject areas including, professional and medical negligence, premises liability, contract disputes, construction defect and injury, and employment matters. In addition to his general civil practice, Casey has robust practice in representing individuals, public officials, media companies, and private businesses in Public Records Act litigation.
Casey attended the University of Washington, where he received a B.A. in Economics and Political Science, and Seattle University School of Law, he received his J.D., magna cum laude. During law school, Casey interned for Senior Judge Lonny Suko and Magistrate Judge James Hutton in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Washington. After law school, he clerked for Senior Judge Edward F. Shea, also in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Washington.
D. Edson Clark, CPA, graduated summa cum laude from the University of Washington in 1977. He obtained his license to practice in the State of Washington as a certified public accountant in 1980. After several years as a tax partner in a multiple partner local accounting firm, Ed co-founded Clark, Raymond & Company in 1991, where he continues to serve as the executive professional.
During his years in public accounting, Ed has been the engagement principal on numerous client engagements that involve the preparation of audited, reviewed, or compiled financial statements, and has extensive experience providing commercial and personal income tax advice. Ed also has extensive experience in the estate taxation and estate planning arena.
Ed is a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and the Washington State Society of Certified Public Accountants.
Ed was a founding Director and former Board Chair of the Rotary Wishing Well Foundation and a former Board member of the Make A Wish Foundation of Washington.
Ed recently received a Key Award from the Washington Coalition For Open Government in recognition of his success in unlocking government secrets related to the improper regulation of the accounting profession in the State of Washington and currently is a Board member of the Coalition.
William Crittenden, Attorney at Law
12345 Lake City Way NE 306
Seattle, WA 98125-5401
William Crittenden is an attorney in private practice. Mr. Crittenden represents parties in litigation and appeals involving freedom of speech and access to public records. He is also Of Counsel to Groff Murphy, PLLC where he represents developers, builders, owners and other interested parties in litigation and in administrative and legislative land use matters. Mr. Crittenden has represented WCOG and the League of Women Voters as amicus curiae in cases involving public records and voting rights. He is a member of the Washington Appellate Lawyers Association. Before entering private practice Mr. Crittenden served as a law clerk to Chief Justice Barbara Durham of the Washington Supreme Court and Judge William W. Baker of the Court of Appeals. Mr. Crittenden is a 1992 graduate of the University of Washington School of Law.
Michele Earl-Hubbard is the President and a media law attorney at Allied Law Group LLC in Seattle. She has been listed in Best Lawyers in America for First Amendment Law every year since 2007 and for First Amendment Litigation since 2012, and has been named a “Super Lawyer” since 2007. Her law firm Allied Law Group LLC which she co-founded in 2007 has been named a “Best Law Firm” by U.S. News and World Report for Media and First Amendment Law every year since the rankings began in 2010. Ms. Earl-Hubbard represents clients in appeals, defamation, privacy, advertising law, copyright, prior restraint, reporter’s privilege, media antitrust matters, public records, open meetings, and open courts and runs several newsroom hotlines for newspapers throughout the Pacific Northwest. She serves on the Prepublication Review Committee of the Media Law Resource Center in New York City. She is a Senior Editor and an author of the Washington State Bar Association’s Public Records Act Deskbook. Ms. Earl-Hubbard serves as a Washington State Freedom of Information Delegate for the Society of Professional Journalists and is a former member of the Board of the National Freedom of Information Coalition and a founding board member and former President of the Washington Coalition for Open Government. She obtained her J.D. from Northwestern University in 1996 where she was appointed to the Order of the Coif and served as Articles Editor on the Law Review. She holds an undergraduate degree in Journalism.
Judith A. Endejan, Attorney
2012 5th Ave N
Seattle, WA 98109
For over two decades, Judy has served communications-related clients after working as a professional journalist. Her background is a unique blend of private practice and in-house experience. She has assisted media clients on a variety of content and newsgathering issues and has litigated public records and access cases. During 2006, Judy took off a year from private practice and worked as General Counsel for Fisher Communications, Inc., a major Northwest broadcast corporation. Judy also spent ten years with GTE Corporation (now Verizon) in the Northwest and California. During that time she acquired substantial experience in public utility regulation and administrative law. She has broad experience litigating communications issues before state and federal courts and administrative agencies.
Judy has been a board member for numerous professional and community organizations, and was a founding member of the Washington Coalition for Open Government. She earned her law degree and a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Wisconsin.
George Erb, Seattle-based Journalist and Educator
George Erb is an adjunct instructor of journalism at Western Washington University and a contributing writer to such publications as the National Law Journal and The Seattle Times. Erb is also a member of the state Bench-Bar-Press Committee. He was editor of the Puget Sound Business Journal for nearly eight years. During that time, the Business Journal won numerous national awards and was a 2010 finalist for a Pulitzer Prize. For 30 years he worked as an editor and a reporter at daily and weekly newspapers, all in Washington state. Erb has a bachelor’s degree in history from Hanover College and a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Oregon. In addition to his work on the coalition’s Revenue Committee, Erb is building the organization’s audience on social media.
Mike Fancher, Former Executive Editor, The Seattle Times
3774 W. Commodore Way
Seattle, WA 98199
Mike Fancher retired from The Seattle Times in 2008 after 20 years as executive editor. Fancher served as a 2008-2009 Donald W. Reynolds Fellow in the Missouri School of Journalism. He received a B.A. degree in journalism from the University of Oregon in 1968 and a Masters degree in Communication from Kansas State University in 1970. He received his MBA degree from the University of Washington in 1986.
Fancher currently serves as chairman of the ethics committee of the American Society of News Editors. He serves on an advisory committee to the Fordham University Graduate School of Business and is a member of the board of directors of the University of Oregon Alumni Association. In 2009, he was a consultant to the Knight Foundation Commission on the Information Needs of Communities in a Democracy and to the Aspen Institute’s Forum on Communications and Society. Also in 2009, the Western Washington Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists presented Fancher its award for Distinguished Service to Journalism. He was inducted into the University of Oregon’s Journalism Hall of Achievement in 2002.
He and his wife, Elaine Bowers, live in Seattle.
Katherine George, Attorney, Johnston George LLP
1126 34th Ave STE 307
Seattle, Washington 98122
Katherine George is a public interest attorney. She helps citizens obtain public records from local, state and federal governments through litigation and appeals. She also helps parents obtain special public school services for children with disabilities. As a lawyer and volunteer, Kathy has worked to protect the environment from pollution and land-use violations. Kathy is a partner at Johnston George LLP in Seattle. She started her law career as a clerk to then-Chief Justice Gerry Alexander of the Washington Supreme Court. Before practicing law, Kathy worked for 15 years as a reporter and assistant city editor at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, and also was a reporter for the Tacoma News Tribune. As a journalist and attorney, Kathy has been dedicated to promoting the free exercise of First Amendment rights and the right of the people to know what their governments are doing.
Marty McCurry, McCurry Investments, Inc.
12935 169th Avenue NE
Redmond, WA 98052
Mr. McCurry is a private angel investor in small businesses and real estate in the State of Washington.
He graduated in accounting from the University of Washington in 1975. He was a practicing CPA about thirty years ago and subsequently left the profession to establish and manage a durable medical equipment company specializing in respiratory care. The sale of this business allowed Mr. McCurry to invest and advise a number of other small businesses over the last twenty years.
Like many citizens, he is concerned about the level of integrity in government, and is passionate about maintaining a foundation of openness to prevent abuses of position from those in power. He has served on the Coalition’s finance committee for the past year.
He is married to Susan, a kindergarten teacher in the Northshore school district, and has three children. Mr. McCurry has been active in coaching and managing his son’s baseball and basketball teams.
Joan K. Mell is a Tacoma attorney in practice for more than twenty-five years. Her typical clients are highly regulated businesses and professionals nationwide. She has worked in all three branches of government, building her own firm III Branches Law, PLLC around her broad based experiences. With regard to government transparency, she is counsel in the Nissen v. Pierce County cases involving work related text messages on the prosecutor’s personal cell phone. She has also sought injunctive relief and anti-SLAPP protections where warranted.
Brian Minnich, Freedom Foundation
PO Box 552Olympia, WA 98507
Brian Minnich serves as the Executive Vice President for the Freedom Foundation.
Prior to starting a political consulting firm in 2011, Brian served for 19 years as the Legislative Affairs Director for the Building Industry Association of Washington. Brian built the association’s legislative program into a powerhouse lobbying operation, which was recognized as the most aggressive and effective in the state. Before moving to Washington in 1991, Brian served as a Legislative Assistant to U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell.
Brian and his wife Karen live in Tumwater, and have two children. Their daughter is a graduate of the University of Southern California and their son attends Gonzaga University.
Toby Nixon is a member of the Kirkland City Council. He previously served as a fire commissioner, and in the Washington State House of Representatives from 2002 through 2006 where he was ranking member of the committee which has responsibility for overseeing Washington’s open government and election laws. He is the 2012 inductee to “Heroes of the 50 States: The State Open Government Hall of Fame” by the National Freedom of Information Coalition and the Society of Professional Journalists. In 2006, he received the “Freedom’s Light Award” from Washington Newspaper Publishers Association in recognition of his work to protect and advance First Amendment interests in Washington. He’s a member of the Washington State Historical Records Advisory Board, and serves as an officer and board member of a number of local non-profit organizations. Toby has worked in the computer industry for over 40 years, currently in the Windows group at Microsoft where he manages relationships with other companies in the computer industry and represents Microsoft in technical standards development organizations.
Fred Obee, Washington Newspaper Publisher’s Association
PO Box 690
Port Townsend, WA 98368
Fred Obee has been a reporter, editor and manager of weekly, twice weekly and small daily newspapers in the Pacific Northwest for the past 30 years. He is a graduate of Western Washington University’s journalism program, was editor of the Whidbey News-Times in Oak Harbor, WA for 11 years, editor of the Daily Triplicate in Crescent City, CA for three years and spent 18 years at the Port Townsend & Jefferson County Leader in Port Townsend, WA., first as a writer and editor, and finally as the General Manager. He is a former Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce President, a current Rotarian and currently serves as the Executive Director of the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association. He lives in Port Townsend with his wife Mary.
Stephanie Olson, Klinedinst Seattle
701 Fifth Avenue, Suite 1220
Seattle, WA 98104
Stephanie D. Olson is an Associate at Klinedinst Seattle where she focuses her practice on professional liability, general liability, employment, and the appeals that flow from these types of matters.
Prior to joining Klinedinst, Ms. Olson served as litigation counsel to a non-profit where she gained appellate experience and advised the foundation on liability exposure and corporate matters. Ms. Olson has extensive experience litigating numerous cases before state and federal trial and appellate courts, including cases involving labor and employment, the Public Records Act (“PRA”), Public Employees Collective Bargaining Act (“PECBA”), state and federal constitutional law, campaign finance, and regulatory matters.
A leader in the community, Ms. Olson is passionate about fighting for freedom in the context of international human rights. She has dedicated her time to volunteering as a local and national leader for anti-human trafficking campaigns. Leading as first chair, Ms. Olson holds distinctive advocacy experience on many cases involving public interest litigation resulting in numerous published opinions. During her tenure at the non-profit, Ms. Olson frequently spoke to large groups, authored blog posts and spoke on talk shows regarding the non-profit’s mission and activities. Additionally, Ms. Olson is a published author in the Ephemeris Journal of Philosophy, the American Bar Association’s Criminal Justice Section blog, and the University of Washington’s Law, Technology & Arts Blog. Ms. Olson has also served as a Special Deputy Prosecutor for Lincoln County where she assisted in pro-bono representation regarding labor and employment issues.
Ms. Olson earned her Juris Doctor from the University of Washington School of Law with honors and with a concentration in Dispute Resolution Concentration and International and Comparative Law. During law school, Ms. Olson served as the Symposium Editor for the Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy and the Articles Editor for the Washington Journal of Law, Technology & Arts. She also externed at the Western District of Washington United States District Court, competed on UW’s national American Association of Justice Mock Trial Team, and served as President for the Federalist Society UW Student Chapter. Ms. Olson received her Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy, magna cum laude, from the University of Illinois and her Bachelor of Arts in International Relations from Wheaton College
Sam Pace, Association of REALTORS®
29839 – 154th Ave. SE
Kent, WA 98042
Sam Pace is a REALTOR® with Executive Real Estate and a contracted Housing Specialist for the Seattle-King County Association of REALTORS®. He is a Past President of the Washington REALTORS® and has been honored as King County’s REALTOR® of the Year. Mr. Pace served as the founding chairman of the South Sound Chambers of Commerce Legislative Coalition and has served on the boards of more than a dozen community and professional organizations. Prior to his career in real estate Mr. Pace was a partner in the Springfield, Oregon, law firm of Harms, Harold, Leahy & Pace where a significant portion of his practice involved litigation and municipal law. He received his bachelor’s degree (double major in urban and regional government, and political science) and MBA from Willamette University, and is a graduate of the University of Oregon School Of Law.
Dale Phelps, Editor and Vice President of News, The News Tribune
1950 South State St
Tacoma, WA 98405
Dale Phelps is the Editor and Vice President of News for The News Tribune in Tacoma. He began his career at The News Tribune in 1998 as sports editor, moved to managing editor in 2008 and into his current position in 2017. Prior to coming to Tacoma, he worked in a variety of jobs (e.g., reporter, copy editor, assistant sports editor, interim sports editor) in the sports department of The Kansas City Star from 1979-1998. He is a native of Kansas City, Mo., and graduated from William Jewell College in Liberty, Mo., in 1980. He was a longtime member of the Associated Press Sports Editors and served a term as the Northwest Region chair.
Rep. Gerry Pollet, State Representative, 46th District; Executive Director & Legal Counsel, Heart of America Northwest
7750 17th Ave NE
Seattle, WA 98115
Gerry Pollet is Executive Director and legal counsel for Heart of America Northwest, a 16,000 member citizens’ group dedicated to “advancing our region’s quality of life.” Heart of America Northwest is the region’s largest citizens’ watchdog group for the cleanup of the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, the most contaminated area in North America. Gerry also serves as Executive Director and general counsel for Legal Advocates for Washington, which provides legal advice on non-profit; open government (public records / FOIA / open meetings); electoral; and, hazardous waste law to non-profit organizations. Gerry chaired the “Protect Washington” campaign for Initiative 297 in 2004, to stop Hanford from being used as a National Radioactive Hazardous Waste Dump and to end dumping of waste in unlined trenches. Gerry has been honored as the “National Grassroots Activist of the Year” by the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability; and, the 2006 Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility Paul Beeson Peace Award. Gerry was involved in drafting and passing Washington laws to protect state and local government whistleblowers.
Kate Riley, Editorial Page Editor, The Seattle Times
1000 Denny Way
Seattle, WA 98109
Kate Riley is the editorial page editor of The Seattle Times. She works with The Times editorial board to develop the opinion page’s positions on issues. She joined The Times’ editorial page in 2002 as a writer and columnist. A graduate of Redmond High School and the University of Washington, she returned to the Seattle area after spending 17 years working at Eastern Washington newspapers where she was a reporter, editorial writer and editorial page editor. She started her career as a farm writer for the Times-owned Walla Walla Union-Bulletin (Think Walla Walla Sweet Onions and the wine industry.)
Brian Sonntag, Former Washington State Auditor
6210 59th Ave. Ct. W
University Place, WA 98467
For 20 years Brian served as Washington State Auditor. First elected in 1992, Brian has been widely known as a leading advocate for open and accountable government. In 2013 he was inducted into the national Open Government Hall of Fame.
He has had a distinguished career in public service. Brian was elected Pierce County Clerk when he was 26 years old. After serving eight years in that office he was twice elected Pierce County Auditor.
Brian received an Honorary Doctorate of Laws from Northwest University in 2013 and in 2007 was named Distinguished Alumni by Tacoma Community College. As a Certified Government Financial Manager, Brian brought professionalism to each office he held.
Brian Sonntag spent many years as a youth baseball and basketball coach, an avid weightlifter and will be entering his fifth season as a high school umpire.
Brian and his wife Jann are lifetime residents of Pierce County. They have 5 sons and 11 grandchildren.
Eric Stahl is a media and intellectual property attorney and partner with the law firm Davis Wright Tremaine. He represents news organizations, journalists and others in public records, First Amendment and intellectual property matters. He spent five years as a newspaper reporter before attending University of Washington School of Law, where he graduated in 1997.
Peggy Watt, Associate Professor of Journalism
Western Washington University
516 High St., MS 9161
Bellingham, WA 98225
Peggy Watt is an associate professor of journalism at Western Washington University. She has degrees in journalism and political science from Western, and worked as a reporter at several newspapers in the Pacific Northwest before moving to California, where she covered Silicon Valley for about 20 years. After joining the faculty at Western, she remained a contributing editor to PC World magazine, where she previously was online news editor.
Ms. Watt completed a master’s degree at Stanford University with a thesis on traditional journalism’s role in new media. She is a longtime member of the Society of Professional Journalists and National Federation of Press Women, as well as the Online News Association and the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication.