Suzanne Harris of Miramar Beach, Florida won the American Society of News Editors' Local Heroes contest. The contest honors individuals who fought tirelessly last year to make their state or local institutions more open and accessible.
When Walton County commissioners did not respond to Harris' e-mail requests for public documents, she sued. As part of the settlement, the commissioners placed the county under court scrutiny to comply with the state's Public Records Act, agreed to hold training annually for public officials and key staff, to use only official county e-mail accounts in its transactions, and to designate an employee as records management liaison officer.
Veronica Silkes of Landing, New Jersey, took second-place for founding Concerned Active Residents of Mount Arlington, a group of citizens concerned about tax increases ad expenditures in Mount Arlington. The group gathers public documents and shares information about borough affairs on its website.
Phil and Ellen Winter of Waynesboro, Virginia took third place. The pair gathered more than 100 pages of government documents after becoming concerned when they noticed the city failed to deposit their property tax check promptly. The documents showed the city treasurer allegedly had mishandled about $400,000 in city and state taxpayer money. Their tip to the local newspaper resulted in the treasurer's defeat in the fall election.
For more about the winners, click here