Key Awards Honor Lincoln County Commissioners, Seattle Times.

Key Awards Honor Lincoln County Commissioners, Seattle Times

A team of investigative reporters who relied on public records to expose dangerous practices in medical care, and a county council that opted for transparency in regard to public funds, plus an advocate who encouraged the council to change its policy, are among recent recipients of WCOG’s Key Award.

The Key Award is given by board vote to recognize a person or organization who has done something notable for the cause of open government.

The most recent presentations were to:

* an investigative team from The Seattle Times for reporting “Quantity of Care,” articles that relied on public records to expose potentially dangerous practices designed to move patients in and out of the hospital in record numbers.

* the three commissioners of the Lincoln County Council for unanimously deciding to conduct collective bargaining sessions with county employee unions in public.

* Mark Hayward of the Freedom Foundation, which has long advocated collective bargaining be done in the open, for drafting the Lincoln County resolution.

Seattle Times investigation

Seattle Times Executive Editor Don Shelton; WCOG President Toby Nixon; reporters Mike Baker and Justin Mayo; Managing Editor Michele Matassa Flores. (Photo: Ken Lambert/The Seattle Times)

Seattle Times reporters Mike Baker and Justin Mayo were presented with Key Awards on March 16 for their use of public records to examine medical care at Swedish Hospital in Seattle. Their year-long investigation involved scrutiny of more than 10,000 pages of records in four states as well as federal and state databases and interviews of more than 100 people. The result was the Feb. 10, 2017 publication of “Quantity of Care,” which exposed a culture of money over care and prompted resignations of several Swedish officials.

“These two outstanding journalists used the public records laws in Washington and other states to provide critical information to its readers about patient care,” said Juli Bunting, WCOG communications director. “Our board was very enthusiastic about presenting this key award to Mike and Justin for some outstanding use of public records.”

Lincoln County vows transparency

Commissioner Scott Hutsell, Chairman of the Commission Rob Coffman, WCOG Board Member David Dewhirst, and Commissioner Mark Steadman.

The three Lincoln County Commissioners received Key Awards on Jan. 23 for unanimously approving a resolution to conduct collective bargaining sessions with county employee unions in public. The resolution, adopted in September, stated that the commissioners considered the policy to follow the spirit and intent of Washington’s Open Public Meetings Act.

Recognized were Commissioners Scott Hutsell, Rob Coffman and Mark Stedman. Also acknowledged was Mark Hayward, “Freedom in Action” state coordinator for the Freedom Foundation. He drafted the resolution and distributed it to all county commissions in the state; Lincoln County is the first to take action.

“Transparency in public employee collective bargaining, at any level, is a major step forward for Washington,” said David Dewhirst, Freedom Foundation representative on WCOG’s board, who nominated the commissioners and Hayward for the award. He praised Hayward’s “ingenuity, perseverance and dedication to enhancing transparent government,” and noted that other county governments are sure to follow Lincoln County’s stance for transparency.

Return to the April 2017 Newsletter