2018 Sunshine Award Winners

The North Carolina Open Government Coalition recgonizes three people whose work has helped make and keep North Carolina government transparent in the last year: Will Hendrick of the Waterkeepers Alliance, Nick Ochsner of WBTV News, and William McKinney of the Office of the Governor. 

 Today the N.C. Open Government Coalition is pleased to recognize three citizens whose work has helped make and keep North Carolina government transparent. They represent three different categories of people who work on government transparency issues: public officials, journalists and advocates. 

Government: William McKinney, general counsel in the Office of the Governor, is the winner of the 2018 Sunshine Award in government. The Coalition is honoring McKinney because of the work he has done since joining the governor’s office to help make executive branch agencies transparency. The person who nominated McKinney wrote: “Mr. McKinney has been integral to ensuring the administration is governed by the highest principles of transparency. McKinney was integral to resolving the long running public records litigation that had been filed by the media and public interest groups against (the governor’s office).” 

Journalism: Nick Ochsner, investigative reporter at WBTV News in Charlotte, is the winner of the 2018 Sunshine Award in journalism. Ochsner was nominated for his dogged pursuit of public records at all levels of government, including his requests for text messages from the sheriffs of Ashe and Union counties. In both instances the station brought public records lawsuits against the sheriffs, and in Ashe County the sheriff was removed from office over his handling of the records requests. 

Advocacy: Will Hendrick of the Waterkeeper Alliance is the winner of the 2018 Sunshine Award for advocacy. During his time as an attorney with the Waterkeeper Alliance and before that with the Southern Environmental Law Center, Hendrick has doggedly pursued access to public records. Last year he settled a dispute with the N.C. Department of Agriculture, which had attempted to charge more than $4,000 in fees to inspect records related to Hurricane Matthew. In the settlement, the department agreed to provide the records and change its policy so that people who wished to inspect records were not charged a fee.