Kris Passey, longtime Northwest journalist and a founder of the Washington Coalition for Open Government, is being honored with the 2017 James Madison award for his sustained support for access and transparency. Passey was notified of the award this fall, shortly before he passed away on Nov. 27, 2016 after a brief battle with pancreatic cancer.
Assured access to all governmental meetings – including agency subcommittees – and greater transparency regarding exemptions to Washington’s public records laws are among the priorities of the Washington Coalition for Open Government for the 2017 Legislative Session. WCOG supports legislation that would require the committees, task forces, or other groups created by and on behalf of government agencies, be subject to the state’s Open Public Meetings Act.
When Michele Earl-Hubbard was a 19-year-old college journalist, state university officials denied her records and refused to return her phone calls. “I just knew that whatever was happening on the other side of that door, whatever was in those records being kept secret, it had to be bad, or why were they trying so hard to keep me in the dark?” she recalled. Several years later, after becoming an attorney who fights for open government and for journalists, she was asked to helped form the Washington Coalition for Open Government. And 15 years later, in September 2016, WCOG honored her with its James Andersen Award.
The Spokane-based law firm Witherspoon Kelley was honored in September with the 2016 James Madison Award at the annual Madison/Andersen Awards breakfast. The Washington Coalition for Open Government annually presents the Madison Award to an organization or individual who has demonstrated a long-term commitment to the cause of open government through “exemplary words or deeds.”
The Tacoma News Tribune reporter Sean Robinson received the second annual Kenneth F. Bunting Award from the Washington Coalition for Open Government for his continued investigative work that revealed numerous instances of misconduct by Pierce County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist. A key piece of Robinson’s coverage involved Lindquist’s battles to prevent disclosure of his records, including to The News Tribune. In a suit brought by the newspaper, the state Supreme Court unanimously ruled that the text messages on a private phone owned by a public official are indeed public record when they pertain to public business.