The winners of the N.C. Open Government Coalition's fifth annual Sunshine Awards were announced at Sunshine Day on Elon University's campus Monday. The winners are Joel Burgess (Asheville Citizen-Times), Bob Hagemann (retired city attorney, Charlotte), Sunshine Request (Patrick Conant and PRC Apps), and Tracy Ledford Deyton (Bakersville, NC).
The N.C. Open Government Coalition announced the winners of its 2019 Sunshine Awards Monday at the organization's annual Sunshine Day event, held at Elon University
The awards honor people and organizations whose work helps keep citizens informed about what their governments are up to. The coalition honors outstanding journalists, government employees or organizations, citizens, and advocates for transparency.
The winner of the 2019 Sunshine Award for journalism is Joel Burgess, of the Asheville Citizen-Times. Burgess acquired body cam video that exposed the police beating of an unarmed black pedestrian stopped for jaywalking. Revelations of the beating shook Asheville and led to changes in top leadership. His work revealed that the Asheville police monitored civil rights groups unbeknownst to city officials. Evidence he uncovered in police data showed that African-Americans are far more likely than white residents to be charged with resisting arrest.
The winner of the 2019 Sunshine Award for advocacy is Sunshine Request, a program that helps facilitate and track the fulfillment of public records requests. Patrick Conant, whose team at PRC Apps created Sunshine Request, accepted the award. Since 2018, Sunshine Request has processed and tracked more than 360 public records requests.
The winner of the 2019 Sunshine Award for government is Bob Hagemann, retired city attorney for Charlotte. Hagemann was the city's attorney during the 2012 Democratic National Convention as it tried to balance the First Amendment rights of protesters and the police department's efforts to maintain public safety. After former mayor Patrick Cannon was arrested on corruption charges in 2014, Hagemann was the city's point person to process subpoenas from the federal government and public record requests from the local media.
The winner of the 2019 Sunshine Award for citizen work is Tracy Ledford Deyton. Deyton is deeply committed to education and the public good. She has utilized access laws on a regular basis, both as a citizen advocate, librarian, board member for various agencies, and as a go-to-person for friends, relatives and colleagues. When she has been a custodian of records, she has helped to make sure that records are accurate and easily accessible.
Congratulations to all of the Sunshine Award winners for 2019. Nominations for the 2020 Sunshine Awards will open in December 2019.