Okanogan County Watch Recognized With Key Award.

Okanogan County Watch Recognized With Key Award

WCOG recently presented Okanogan County Watch with a Key Award for its advocacy of open government in Okanogan County.

The Okanogan County Watch (OCW), is a countywide group of volunteers who post notes and occasional videos of County Commissioner meetings on its website, www.countywatch.org. The volunteers also send email notices of commissioners’ agendas and meeting summaries to interested parties.

The effort began in early 2014 when Isabelle Spohn of Twisp began emailing notes of Commissioners’ weekly Planning Updates regarding land use decisions, because the county was not promptly posting agendas and minutes on its website. By late 2015, the group had expanded coverage to all Commissioners’ proceedings. To address lack of transparency, accountability and responsiveness by the board of commissioners then in effect, another group called Represent Okanogan County began posting the addressed the reports on its own website. By mid-2017, 18 volunteers participated, including five scheduled note-takers who covered most proceedings. This year, the group launched its own website and Facebook page as Okanogan County Watch, which now including lists of citizen representatives to boards and advisory groups.

In addition to Spohn, the team includes note-takers George Thornton (Oroville) Gina McCoy and Emily Sisson (Winthrop), Katie Haven (webmaster, Methow) with support staff Rick Gillespie (retiring, Chesaw), and Jan Young (Pine Forest.)

With the election of two new Commissioners for 2017 through 2020, the ongoing efforts of the County Clerk, and the work of OCW, significant improvements in governmental transparency are evident. They include more timely posting of minutes and agendas, quick acknowledgment of public records requests, dramatic decrease in executive sessions, inclusion of the public in Commissioners’ discussions and occasional videos (which are beyond the county’s financial ability to produce and archive.)

Key Awards recognize any person or organization who has done something notable for the cause of open government.

“OCW is an inspiring example of citizens doing the hard work of keeping government open and accountable. People have the right to access government information and there is no better defender of that right than the people themselves,” said Mike Fancher, WCOG board member and retired Seattle Times executive editor, who presented the award.