The New Mexico Foundation for Open Government will honor three individuals and an organization as “champions of transparency” during its annual luncheon on Wednesday.
Speaking at the event will be James Neff, a prize-winning author and the Philadelphia Media Group’s deputy managing editor for investigations and projects. Neff’s books include: “The Wrong Man: The Final Verdict on the Dr. Sam Sheppard Murder Case”; “Vendetta,” a book about Robert F. Kennedy’s war against Teamster boss Jimmy Hoffa; and “Mobbed Up,” a biography of Teamster president Jackie Presser, adapted into an HBO movie.
Receiving this year’s Dixon First Amendment Awards are: whistleblower and citizen advocate Sondra Everhart, data journalist Sandra Fish, attorney A. Blair Dunn and Animal Village New Mexico.
Doors open at 11 a.m. at Embassy Suites in Albuquerque, with the program starting at 11:30.
“I am very excited about this year’s group of awardees,” said FOG President Gregory P. Williams. “It is inspiring to have so many people in our state fighting to open up our government.”
The awards have been presented since 2002 in memory of FOG co-founder and longtime board member William S. Dixon. They recognize individuals who, like Dixon, are advocates for the First Amendment and the state’s sunshine laws.
Everhart was an ombudsman for nursing and assistant-living homes. She was terminated after releasing public documents about substandard housing that mentally ill patients live in following their release from the state Behavioral Health Institute in Las Vegas, N.M.
Fish is being honored in the journalism category because of her reporting initiatives for New Mexico In Depth since 2014, which advanced transparency in New Mexico government, especially in lobbyist spending, capital outlay funding and in following the flow of money in politics. Fish said the state’s open records laws are essential to the work of journalists.
Dunn is being honored in the legal category. He has represented plaintiffs in several public records disputes and has taken on a mayor, the state Attorney General’s Office and even judges, among others.
ANIMAL VILLAGE NEW MEXICO is based in Alamogordo, and is being honored in the organization category. The group spent 17 months trying to, and eventually obtaining public records on, two puppy mills from Doña Ana County through the New Mexico Inspection of Public Records Act. The county was eventually ordered to hand over the records and to pay more than $90,000 in damages and attorney fees. Las Cruces attorney Peter Goodman represented Animal Village.
WHEN: Wednesday, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
WHERE: Embassy Suites, 1000 Woodward Place NE, Albuquerque.
COST: $60 per person. All proceeds benefit NMFOG. For tickets, visit nmfog.org. Deadline for purchasing tickets is Monday.