Sunshine Day 2020 Award Winners Announced

The winners of the North Carolina Open Government Coalition’s sixth annual Sunshine Awards were announced at Sunshine Day at N.C. A&T State University on Monday.

The North Carolina Open Government Coalition announced the winners of the 2020 Sunshine Day Awards on Monday at the organization’s annual Sunshine Day event, held this year at N.C. A&T State University. Award recipients were Buncombe County Finance Director Don Warn, Charlotte educator Justin Parmenter, and the Fayetteville Observer.

The Sunshine Awards honor people and organizations whose work informs citizens about government transparency concerns and helps hold government accountable. The NC Open Government Coalition honors outstanding journalists, public servants, citizens and advocates for efforts to increase government transparency. 

The winner of the 2020 Sunshine Award for government is Buncombe County Finance Director Don Warn. Warn helped launch “The Open Checkbook,” which provides unprecedented public access into Buncombe County’s financial transactions. His efforts help maintain the county’s commitment to data privacy and security while maximizing allowable financial transparency. 

The winner of the 2020 Sunshine Award for citizen work is Justin Parmenter, a Charlotte teacher and education advocate. Parmenter uses his website “Notes from the Chalkboard” as a platform for informing the public on North Carolina education issues and holding elected officials accountable. In the summer of 2019, his reporting helped unearth documents and refute the controversial award of a K-3 reading assessment to the computer-based Istation company DPI.

The winner of the 2020 Sunshine award for journalism is the Fayetteville Observer. In June 2017, the newspaper moved for access to the contents of a civil Superior Court file that had been entirely sealed, concealing the names of the defendants in a case brought by John Doe minor plaintiffs against a prominent North Carolina businessman accused of sexual molestation against the minor plaintiffs. When the trial court refused to unseal any of the documents, the Fayetteville Observer appealed. In September 2019, the trial court ordered the entire file unsealed.

Congratulations to all of the 2020 Sunshine Award winners.