NMFOG announces 2012 Transparency Award winners
The New Mexico Foundation for Open Government (a member of NFOIC) has announced that five individuals, including Albuquerque Mayor Richard J. Berry, will be recognized as William F. Dixon First Amendment Freedom Award winners at a luncheon on October 3.
Others being presented the award include attorney Dolph Barnhouse, with the law firm Luebben, Johnson and Barnhouse; reporter Jeff Proctor, with the Albuquerque Journal; Charles Wollmann, communications director for the State Investment Council; and attorney Jim Dines, who is being recognized for lifetime achievement.
"These five winners have shown extraordinary initiative in protecting and advancing the public's right to know. They're transparency superheroes in street clothes," said Gwyneth Doland, the executive director of NMFOG.
The 2012 William S. Dixon First Amendment Freedom Award will be presented to the following five recipients:
Government: Richard J. Berry, mayor of Albuquerque. Mayor Berry has been unusually proactive about making public information available on the City's website, ABQView, which in 2012 earned a perfect A+ grade from the Sunshine Review. The site gives the public easy access to details of the city's budget, contracts, construction projects-even the mayor's credit card statements. The mayor also launched an ambitious open data initiative, greatly empowering the city's IT staff to find sources of public data-such as food inspections and building permits-and to put them online in a format that allows them to be analyzed and even used for smartphone apps. Later this year a city-sponsored app contest will give $30,000 in prizes to developers who create the best apps with city data.
Law: Dolph Barnhouse, Luebben, Johnson and Barnhouse, LLC. Barnhouse's brilliant arguments for transparency, made in amicus briefs filed for FOG, helped to significantly advance New Mexicans' right to know this year. Two major court decisions clearly reflected his arguments for strictly limiting executive privilege and other exemptions to disclosure of public records (Republican Party of New Mexico vs. Department of Taxation and Revenue) and requiring disclosure of public records held by private contractors (Toomey v. City of Truth or Consequences).
Journalism: Jeff Proctor, Albuquerque Journal. In his tenacious reporting on law enforcement and local governments, Proctor has made expert use of sunshine laws to expose violations of the public trust. He used dozens of Inspection of Public Records Act requests to reveal inadequate hiring practices, police misconduct, nepotism, favoritism and and mismanagement-stories that resulted in significant changes in public policy, including the adoption of final discipline of police officers as a public record. In addition, because of Jeff's work, the DA's office and District Court agreed to suspend the special investigative grand juries that examine police shootings. Overall, as a result of Jeff's reporting, law enforcement and local governments are more transparent and accountable.
Public Information: Charles Wollmann, State Investment Council. As the communications director for the State Investment Council, Wollmann has established a reputation for honesty, integrity and transparency-even when navigating a years-long state investment scandal involving complex financial information and very serious charges. In his decade at the SIC, this former investigative producer at KOAT has earned the trust of reporters and members of the public who rely on him for transparency. (This is a new category; awards are not given in every category every year.)
Lifetime Achievement: Jim Dines, attorney. Dines' name isn't as well known to the public as it is to the legions of reporters and editors who relied on his expert counsel and passionate advocacy to help pry open closed doors, access vital documents and further the public's right to know. Even after his retirement, his words echo in the ears of his former clients-and the attorneys who worked with him. He lead FOG's fight to open up UNM presidential searches, successfully litigated the rolling quorum issue and lead the legal fight for access to public employee job applications. Dines is honored for a lifetime of service to transparency, his dedication to FOG and his enduring impact on open government in New Mexico.
Nominations were solicited from the public and the recipients were selected by a panel of NMFOG Board members. The awards, which have been given since 2002, honor NMFOG co-founder and longtime Board member William S. Dixon. Dixon was a brilliant attorney and leading defender of the First Amendment and public rights under the New Mexico Open Meetings Act and Inspection of Public Records Act.
"It's much easier to sweep things under the rug than it is to pry open closed doors," Doland said. "With these awards we celebrate those who carry on Bill Dixon's fighting spirit. Their dedication and resolve serve as an inspiration for anyone who cares about the future of New Mexico."
The Dixon Award Ceremony and Benefit Luncheon will be held Oct. 3, 2012 at the Embassy Suites in Albuquerque. Individual tickets cost $60, and sponsorship opportunities are available. All proceeds benefit the New Mexico Foundation for Open Government. For more information or to purchase tickets, call (888) 843-9121.
The 2011 recipients of the Dixon Award were State Senator Sander Rue, the League of Women Voters of Santa Fe County, attorney Matthew R. Hoyt and Corrales International School newspaper advisors Bryant Furlow and Scott Blackwell. Previous recipients include the Rio Grande Sun's Robert B. Trapp and Robert E. Trapp, state Representative Janice Arnold-Jones, New Mexico Tech President Daniel Lopez, former First State Bank CEO Michael Stanford, Rockford M. Hayes of the Rio Rancho Observer and Presbyterian Healthcare Services President Jim Hinton.
FOG is New Mexico's leading voice for transparency in government. We educate the public and public officials about sunshine laws, assist individuals who have been denied access to public records or meetings, and advocate for greater public access. FOG is an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit member organization which has served New Mexico since 1990. To learn more, visit http://nmfog.org/.