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A reporter whose work led to the resignation of a top state government official, a dogged citizen who filed more than 300 records requests to hold a child welfare agency accountable and two lawmakers who for years worked to make state government more transparent will be honored next month.
The New Mexico Foundation for Open Government, a nonprofit group that advocates for open government, recently announced this year’s recipients of the William S. Dixon First Amendment Freedom Awards. The awards are given annually to New Mexicans who made significant contributions to casting sunshine on government operations in the state.
The recipients will be honored at a virtual event Oct. 7. Marty Baron, a retired editor of the Washington Post, will be the keynote speaker.
This year, Ed Williams, a reporter with Searchlight New Mexico, will be recognized. Williams reported Children, Youth and Families Department employees were using Signal, an encrypted messaging app, to discuss state business. He also revealed that state employees were routinely deleting those messages every 24 hours. The reporting ultimately led to the resignation of former CYFD secretary Brian Blalock and the filing of a whistle-blower lawsuit.
Reps. Matthew McQueen and Kelly Fajardo will be recognized as government officials who strived for transparency.
McQueen, D-Santa Fe, for years worked to require public disclosure of legislators’ capital outlay appropriations. New rules recently took effect and members of the public can now track what infrastructure projects their elected officials are supporting with public money.
Fajardo, R-Los Lunas, was a cosponsor of the bill to publish capital outlay spending. She has also advocated to make government task forces comply with the Open Meetings Act.
The citizen recipient this year is Doug Michel, a foster and adoptive parent. Michel has submitted more than 300 records requests for documents pertaining to CYFD protective services. He published his findings with child welfare advocates and other foster parents, and he is a top source of information for an ongoing class action lawsuit against CYFD.
All four of this year’s recipients will be recognized at the virtual event, which will benefit FOG. There is a suggested donation of $60 for those wishing to attend.
Baron, the keynote speaker, is no stranger to advocating for government transparency. During the course of his career, newsrooms under his direction won 17 Pulitzer Prizes.
In addition to his work at the Post, Baron was the editor of the Boston Globe in 2003 when the paper won the Pulitzer Prize for public service for its reporting on the local Catholic Archdiocese’s efforts to conceal clergy sex abuse.
That work had a strong New Mexico connection, as some of those Catholic priests were sent to the now-shuttered Servants of the Paraclete in Jemez Springs.