Madison/Andersen Awards Recognize Dedication.

Madison/Andersen Awards Recognize Dedication

By Peggy Watt

WCOG founding president Kris Passey, longtime board member and open government warrior William Crittenden and KING-TV investigative reporter Susannah Frame were honored in September at the annual fall Madison/Andersen breakfast.

Attendees at 2017 Madison/Anderson Breakfast.

Passey, who passed away in late 2016, was recognized with the James Madison Award, given yearly to an individual or organization whose long-term commitment to the cause of open government is shown through exemplary words or deeds.

Crittenden, who represents parties in litigation involving freedom of speech and access to public records, was presented the Andersen Award, named for retired state Chief Justice James Andersen, who was a longtime proponent of transparency. The award goes to an individual or organization who has done something extraordinary to advance the efforts of the Washington Coalition for Open Government.

Frame was recognized with the Kenneth F. Bunting Award for her body of work, including reliance on public records to uncover stories, and her ongoing support for the public’s right to know. The award, named for former Seattle Post-Intelligencer editor Ken Bunting, goes to journalists for work that utilizes, advances, or educates about the state’s Open Public Meetings Act/Public Records Act.

Catherine Passey accepts Madison Award for Kris Passey.

Passey, the Madison Award winner, had won the Andersen Award in 2008. He was represented by his wife, Catherine, who was also his partner during his many years editing and publishing community newspapers in Marysville and Arlington. She said he was “dumbfounded and so honored and humbled” by the award.

She noted that Passey’s campaign for public access began as a high school journalist and continued through work at the newspapers, the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association and WCOG. “He loved this work, but most of all he loved you — the people here. You inspired him. He loved your dedication and it was a privilege for him to work with you.”

WCOG Colleague Scott Wilson, former publisher of the Port Townsend Leader, spoke of Passey’s conviction that “high thoughts, well-spoken or written, would elevate his listeners, his readers, his community, those he led in the causes to which he was devoted” and noted that “he did all of this while doing the grunt work of running a small business in a small town, where he duked it out with city councils, tribal councils and school boards who would much rather hide their mistakes and embarrassments.” Wilson referenced Passey’s coverage of the Tulalip Tribes’ abuse of federal funds, Marysville city council efforts to hide city business and the Snohomish County Auditor’s removal of thousands of public documents from its website.

William Crittenden, Andersen Award recipient.

As WCOG’s first president, “Kris set a tone for the organization that continues to this day,” Wilson said. “That tone is: In an informed, intelligent but relentless manner, to fight like hell for public access to meetings and records.”

Crittenden, accepting the Andersen Award, joked that it was his “second favorite object relating to open government” and shared a box containing a ream of redacted documents from an ongoing case with Pierce County.

“Every time you turn over a rock you’re surprised at what you find,” the longtime WCOG board member observed, promising to continue fighting for accountability in Pierce County government and elsewhere. He has litigated numerous open government cases and assists with amicus briefs filed by WCOG.

Juli Bunting, presenting the award named for her late husband, also acknowledged the runner-up, The Seattle Times, which won the initial Bunting Award in 2015. Its Quality of Care series about irregularities in health care “led to vast changes at Swedish and we continue to be extremely proud of The Seattle Times,” Bunting said.

The KING-5 investigative team was also honored with a Key Award, for its recent work on stories about Washington State Ferry workers and contamination issues at the Hanford site. The Key Award is given periodically to an individual or group who does something notable for the cause of open government.

Lori Matsukawa and Toby Nixon.

“The KING-5 investigators continue to enlighten their viewers year after year through their hard work, their persistence and their continued use of the Public Records Act,” said WCOG President Toby Nixon, recognizing the team. KING-5 anchor Lori Matsukawa accepted the award for the KING-5 Investigators.

“We take the responsibility of the Fourth Estate very seriously,” Matsukawa said. “In these times when journalists are under attack, all I can say is were going to march on, we’re going to do our jobs. And when the light shines on dirty dogs, they growl and bite back.”

Frame was represented by Russ Walker, assistant news director, who read her statement. Frame was recognized for her body of work, including reporting on contamination problems at Hanford nuclear site and the recent “Waste on the Water” investigation of state ferry workers. In her statement, Frame thanked WCOG for its help “opening the doors that many in positions of power want to keep slammed shut.”

Return to the December 2017 Newsletter