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Trade Center director Anthony Hemstad wins open government award

Post by Peter Callaghan / The News Tribune on Sep. 20, 2010 at 8:36 am with No Comments »
September 20, 2010 8:38 am

It wasn’t related to his current job – executive director of the World Trade Center Tacoma. Instead, Anthony Hemstad‘s “Key Award” from the Washington State Council for Open Government was presented for his work in opening up the actions of a hospital district in King County.

Hemstad was nominated by former Secretary of State Ralph Munro.

Here’s the description of Hemstad’s work in the release from WCOG:

Anthony Hemstad, a commissioner for King County Hospital District No. 1, is being honored for his effort to bring transparency reforms to the governing body of Valley Medical Center. The district was sanctioned by the state Public Disclosure Commission for misusing public funds in the run‐up to a failed 2005 annexation election and weathered more public criticism for approving a lavish retirement package for the hospital’s chief executive.

Hemstad ran as a reform candidate on a 10‐point platform designed to open the workings of the district to taxpayers. Since his election, the district has begun videotaping its meetings and posting its meeting agenda and minutes on the internet.

“I care deeply about public policy, and frankly, I’m proud to be a public servant,” Hemstad, who is also Executive Director World Trade Center Tacoma, told a local newspaper. “When a government breaks the law, I consider that both a disservice to society and a personal insult.”

Also winning were Eric Rachner, a computer expert who discovered misuse of dashboard videos by the Seattle Police, and the Yakima Herald-Republic which waged an expensive battle to get records on what Yakima County spent to defend murder suspects.

Here are the WCOG’s description of those awards:

Computer expert Eric Rachner is being honored for his investigation into how the Seattle Police Department uses video recordings of street arrests and revealed a troubling pattern that shows the department tends to use the recordings to exonerate officers involved in internal investigations ‐‐ and deny access to suspects and others. Rachner was arrested by SPD and charged with obstructing an officer for refusing to give his name when police investigated a late night game of “urban golf” on Capitol Hill. Although charges against him were later dropped, Rachner was intrigued by the use of video recordings by police and found that they aren’t routinely destroyed as SPD officials claimed.

Also being honored is the Yakima Herald‐Republic newspaper, which is being recognized for its expensive legal battle to force Yakima County to turn over legal billing records. The county spent upwards of $2 million to defend two suspects charged in a high profile murder case and refused to turn over details of how that money was paid out, citing both attorney‐client privilege and a claim that judicial records are exempt from Washington’s public records law. The state Supreme Court will determine if the Herald ‐‐ and the public ‐‐ will get to see the records.

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