MNCOGI Announces Recipients of the 2018 John R. Finnegan FOI Award

The awards will be presented at MNCOGI’s annual Freedom of Information Day event Friday, March 16 from noon to 1 pm, at Minneapolis Central Library’s Pohlad Hall, 300 Nicollet Mall. All are welcome.

Star Tribune Reporter Chris Serres To Receive John R. Finnegan FOI Award

The Minnesota Coalition on Government Information (MNCOGI) honors Star Tribune reporter Chris Serres with the 2018 John R. Finnegan Freedom of Information (FOI) Award for his 5-part investigative series, Left to Suffer, about significant abuse of senior home residents. Through meticulous research, Serres was able to show that elder abuse victims and their families effectively were denied access to government files that should have been public. He filed numerous data requests for audit reports, combed through thousands of those state records, and his work detailed criminal abuse in senior care facilities. The publication of his work in November 2017 led the Governor Dayton and AARP, in conjunction with other organizations serving Minnesota seniors, to convene a Consumer Workgroup on the Health and Safety of Minnesota Seniors. The Workgroup’s report, issued in January 2018, outlined 4 key actions that legislators and regulators can take in response to Serres’ investigation.  

Attorney Paul Hannah To Receive Finnegan FOI Career Achievement Award

MNCOGI awards The John R. Finnegan Freedom of Information Career Achievement Award to Paul Hannah. Soon after John R. Finnegan, Sr. founded the Minnesota Joint Media Committee in the 1970s, Hannah joined forces with him to advocate for openness in government including cameras in the court. For almost two decades, The Best Lawyers in America honored Hannah by listing him in its “First Amendment Law” area. He represented several local media companies in dozens of legal efforts to  preserve access and accountability. In June 2010, Hannah freely shared his media law expertise at MNCOGI’s “Fair Use and Social Media: A Primer.”  According to MNCOGI Chair Gary Hill, “Paul’s consistent and effective legal fights for the public’s right to know make him a recipient most worthy of the John R. Finnegan Freedom of Information Award.”

Citizen Lobbyist Van Pelt and Star Tribune Editor & Reporter Shiffer will discuss “Seeking Sunshine In a Secretive Health Care System” at Finnegan FOI Awards

The keynote presentation will be a question and answer session between citizen lobbyist Sheila Van Pelt and James Shiffer, Star Tribune Editor and Reporter whose June 2017 profile of Van Pelt showed how the lack of information surrounding her mother’s stroke in a senior care facility led Van Pelt to discover how difficult it is to receive records from regulators and senior care facilities. After familiarizing herself with the Minnesota Data Practices Act and the legislative process, Van Pelt has used her immersion in data practices law to initiate informed conversations with legislators and now considers herself a citizen lobbyist.