2016 Andersen Award Recognizes Earl-Hubbard for WCOG Service.

2016 Andersen Award Recognizes Earl-Hubbard for WCOG Service

By Cynthia Mitchell

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.

Michele Earl-Hubbard accepts the 2016 James Andersen Award.

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, given each year to a person or organization who has done extraordinary work for the cause of open government.

In presenting Earl-Hubbard with the award, another founding and current board member, George Erb, ticked off the many ways that Earl-Hubbard advanced the cause of open government in the past year alone.

She was instrumental in arguing a case in which the state Supreme Court upheld a $503,000 penalty against the state Department of Labor & Industries for improperly delaying the release of records to The Seattle Times. She chaired a state open government conference. She chaired the coalition’s annual essay contest. Above all, he said, she donated countless hours as an attorney to the cause of open government.

“Our honoree exemplifies to the highest degree the coalition’s core mission,” Erb said, “to be a tireless and effective advocate of the people’s right to know.”

In accepting the award, Earl-Hubbard recalled that when she was asked to help found the coalition, she “felt like the kid allowed to sit at the grown-up table at Thanksgiving.”

The group’s founding philosophy was to be “a group of inclusion, not exclusion,” she said. “Our members would come from every possible interest group, every political philosophy.

“We would likely disagree about a great many things, but on one point we would all agree,” said Earl-Hubbard of the coalition’s founding members. “That open government was better government and that transparency and accountability were the cornerstone of any viable democracy.”

One of her fondest memories was of arguing a case with Andersen as amicus for WCOG before the state Division One Court of Appeals. During the arguments, she went into labor two weeks early with her middle daughter, Sydney.

That happened again when she was president of the coalition, she said, with her youngest daughter Hadley, who was born in December of 2005, rather than the following month.

“And my three daughters spent the first years of their babyhood as the youngest board members, being held and entertained by true giants in this state at WCOG board meetings and events and in the halls of the state Llegislature so, as my children would say, I could ‘talk to the people who make the laws so they would be good laws and not bad ones.’ ”

After thanking those daughters and her husband, Paul, she closed with an appeal.

“We are still outmanned and outspent every day in the state legislature, in our courts, and in every corner of the state by those seeking to weaken or outright kill your right to know,” she said. “We need you, and we need you more and need more from you than we have ever needed before. Whether with your wallets, your hands, your voice or the ink upon your pages, we need you to join us, to help us, to step forward before you are asked.”

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