State Coalition Receives Funds to Promote Access

Advocates for open access to public information, representing journalists, librarians, lawyers, educators and good government groups, have worked together for over a decade to support the public’s right to open and reliable information by and about their government. Now, the Minnesota Coalition on Government Information (MnCOGI) has received a grant from the National Freedom of Information Coalition to support the process of formalizing what has been until now an informal network. Focus of the MnCOGI is to foster and protect the public’s right to access state and local government data, records, and information.

In awarding the grant NFOIC directors indicated that they “were impressed with [the coalition’s] progress to date” and invited the MnCOGI to re-apply for additional funds for operating expenses. Current funding will be used specifically for start up activities including incorporation, promotional publications, and other upfront costs of creating a sustainable nonprofit organization.

For nearly two decades MnCOGI, operating as an ad hoc coalition, has sponsored annual commemoration of Freedom of Information Day. Freedom of Information Day, March 16 of each year, is observed all over the country and commemorates the birthday of President James Madison, a renowned leader in the nation’s commitment to an informed citizenry as critical to the existence of a democracy.

Each year the Coalition presents the John R. Finnegan Freedom of Information Award to a Minnesota individual or organization that has demonstrated significant commitment to and support of the people’s right to know. In 2005 the Minnesota Coalition was recognized at the national level with the Eileen Cooke James Madison Award for Local and State Government Information.

The Coalition will also sponsor Freedom of Information Day 2007 on Friday, March 16, with a public program and awards ceremony at the Minneapolis Central Library. MnCOGI currently is soliciting nominations for the 2007 John R. Finnegan Freedom of Information Award. In collaboration with a host of other state and national organizations MnCOGI actively participate in Sunshine Week, a national advocacy effort focused on freedom of access and a free press. On Tuesday, March 12, MnCOGI will sponsor a local site for a national dialogue on open government and secrecy, featuring a national webcast titled “Closed Doors; Open Democracies.” The local site at Metro State University in St. Paul will feature an active participation seminar on state and local information issues and practices featuring attorneys Donald A. Gemberling and Katherine A. Engler.

For additional information on the Minnesota Coalition on Government Information, Sunshine Week, Freedom of Information Day or for guidelines for the John R. Finnegan Freedom of Information Award check the MnCOGI website ( or contact Mary Treacy, or 612 781 4234.