The Minnesota Coalition on Government Information (MNCOGI) 2022 Freedom of Information awards honor:
- Brandon Stahl, A. J. Lagoe, Gary Knox & Steve Eckert for KARE 11 Investigates –“The Gap: Failure to Treat, Failure to Protect” ;
- Leita Walker for coordinating a media coalition whose advocacy resulted in Minnesota’s first live-streamed criminal trial; and
- James Barnum for his tireless devotion to and pursuit of keeping government records public for over three decades
The public is invited to a virtual award ceremony featuring a discussion with the recipients.
MNCOGI is pleased to announce recipients of this year’s John R. Finnegan Freedom of Information Award:
Brandon Stahl, A. J. Lagoe, Gary Knox and Steve Eckert devoted eight months to studying how lapses in mental health services played a role in a mass shooting and bombing in rural Minnesota. Their interviews, data collection and analysis resulted in the October 2021 broadcast of KARE 11 Investigates – “The Gap: Failure to Treat, Failure to Protect.” Prompted by the tragic killing and mass shooting at the rural health clinic by a mentally ill criminal, and attempting to account for its occurrence, Stahl, Lagoe, Knox and Eckert sought relevant health and judicial records of criminal defendants with mental illness. Their own analysis showed many are at large and receive no medical services. Now, just over a year after the mass shooting and four months after the broadcast of “The Gap: Failure to Treat, Failure to Protect,” the work by Stahl, Lagoe, Knox and Eckert demonstrates that records discovery and analysis can lead to greater public awareness and the proposal of a legislative remedy.
Leita Walker, First Amendment attorney, litigator and trial lawyer at Ballard Spahr, coordinated a media coalition that provided the judiciary with ample reason to allow cameras to record a criminal trial in Minnesota for the first time. Thanks to Walker’s efforts, the media coalition of over 35 national and international outlets worked with all parties throughout the trial: judge, prosecution and defense. The trial could hardly have been more historic – State of Minnesota vs. Derek Michael Chauvin. Coordinating media across such a wide spectrum – broadcast, radio, print with local, state, national and international audiences in mind – took knowledge of the law and the public’s need for public information to hold its government accountable for actions taken. Walker’s tactful and tireless efforts kept all parties informed and in agreement while maintaining respectful relationships with the judiciary.
MNCOGI is pleased to announce recipients of this year’s John R. Borger Lifetime Achievement Award:
James Barnum, Deputy General Counsel for Hubbard Broadcasting, has worked steadfastly for over three decades to provide legal support and advice enabling journalists to do their jobs in ensuring government transparency and holding officials accountable. Even as they encountered resistance seeking records in the face of emerging technologies (such as last century’s cell phones) and overcoming sympathetic parties who sought to close off investigatory files. Journalists could rely upon Barnum to support their efforts to obtain public records and protect the public’s right to know time and time again.
Online Award ceremony will be held on Wednesday, March 16th, 7 pm.