The blog of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Mar 12, 2012

'Local heroes' win awards for keeping public information in the people's hands

Posted by Marika Lynch

Joel Chandler believes that open government is not an accident – and he should know.  Chandler – a businessman, not an attorney – has filed and won more than two-dozen lawsuits forcing governments to comply with open records laws. Along the way the Lakeland, Fla. resident has helped keep school districts from selling the personal information of their employee’s minor dependents, fought excessive fees for residents seeking public records and helped South Florida residents fighting a private prison planned for their neighborhood by exposing contract violations.

Today, for his efforts, Chandler is being named the winner of the 2012 Sunshine Week Local Hero Award, honoring people using publically-available information to make a difference in their communities. The honor is announced at the start of a week-long initiative on government transparency at all levels.

The American Society of News Editors and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press co-sponsor the event, with support from Knight Foundation.

Other local heroes include: Eric Rachner, of Seattle, who forced the local police to make public videos from patrol car dashboard cameras, and Suzanne McCrory of Mamaroneck, N.Y., who worked with an attorney to successfully sue her village for withholding records.

Chandler will receive expense-paid trip to Washington, D.C., to attend the ASNE Annual Convention, April 2-4, where he will be recognized for his open government achievements. Rachner, the second place winner, and McCrory, who won third place, will receive $500 and $250, respectively.

Read more about other local heroes nominated for the prize on the Sunshine Week website.

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