Donna Frye, San Diego
Ms. Frye served as a member of the San Diego City Council from 2001 through 2010. During her tenure, she distinguished herself as an independent thinker who fought continuously for an open and honest government accountable to the public. Councilmember Frye used her leadership skills to open the doors of government, and in 2004, she boycotted closed session meetings until the mayor and council agreed to change the permanent rules of council. She met with Terry Francke, and this collaboration resulted in a reform of the rules that included requiring that a transcriptionist take minutes in all closed session meetings and ensuring that the public could testify on any closed session item. Continuing her quest for an honest and accountable government, Frye created the Government Efficiency and Openness Committee. As its first chair, she accomplished a number of open government reforms in less than a year, and continuing her work with Francke, rallied public consensus around a tough open-government City Charter ballot measure that passed with over 80 percent of the vote. Ms. Frye’s advocacy on behalf of the public and its right to know what its government is doing began more than 20 years ago. Prior to her election, she was best known for her environmental activism and her commitment to clean water. She founded Surfers Tired of Pollution, which helped initiate efforts to establish uniform statewide water monitoring standards and require the posting of warning signs in front of discharging storm drains to warn the public about the pollution. Ms. Frye received the 2011 Sunshine Award from the San Diego Society of Professional Journalists, and was elected to serve as CalAware’s president in 2013.
Tim Crews, Willows
Mr. Crews is editor and publisher of the twice-weekly Sacramento Valley Mirror, which the California Press Association has called "California's most courageous newspaper.” His unmatched readiness as a journalist to go to court to keep local government meetings and records open to the public is of a piece with the substance and success of his reporting, winning him the Freedom of Information Award in three annual contests conducted by the California Newspaper Publishers Association. He is the only living journalist in the state known to have served jail time for refusing to name a source of published information subpoenaed in a criminal prosecution. For this act of principled refusal, coupled with his activism for governmental transparency generally, he has received:
- The Bill Farr Award of the California Society of Newspaper Editors in 2000;
- Hofstra University’s Francis Frost Wood Courage in Journalism Award in 2004;
- The California Press Association’s Newspaper Executive of the Year Award in 2009; and
- The Norwin Yoffie Lifetime Achievement Award of the Northern California Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists in 2011.
Kelly Aviles, La Verne
Vice President for Open Government Compliance
Ms. Aviles, daughter of the late renowned open government activist Richard P. McKee, is an attorney who specializes in the California Public Records Act, the Ralph M. Brown Act, and the Bagley-Keene Act, and serves as litigation counsel for Californians Aware. She attended the University of La Verne College of Law, graduating Magna Cum Laude in 2006. She has successfully assisted numerous clients in obtaining legal orders interpreting California’s open government laws and securing the release of important government records. In 2012, she successfully represented Californians Aware when it teamed up with the Los Angeles Times to force the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum Commission to comply with the Brown Act and turn over wrongfully withheld public records. In 2010, she won a case against California State University Stanislaus, obtaining an order requiring the University to disclose its foundation’s speaking appearance contract with former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin. Ms. Aviles has also served as outside counsel for the San Diego County Water Authority, successfully litigating two high profile public records cases against the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power and the Eastern Municipal Water District.
Robert Stern, Malibu
Mr. Stern has been active in the political reform movement for nearly 40 years. Peter Schrag in the Sacramento Bee called him "the godfather of modern political reform in California." He began drafting and analyzing political reform laws as a staff attorney for the California Legislature's Assembly Elections Committee in 1971; he then served as the Elections Counsel to the California Secretary of State's office. He was the principal co-author of California's 1974 Political Reform Act, adopted by 70 percent of California's voters, and was a principal drafter of the City of Los Angeles' Ethics and Public Campaign Financing laws approved by voters in 1990. Mr. Stern was the first general counsel of California's Fair Political Practices Commission, the state agency charged with administering and enforcing California's campaign finance, ethics and conflicts of interest laws. He was President of the Center for Governmental Studies from 1983 until 2011, when the Center closed its offices. CGS was a Los Angeles based non-profit, nonpartisan research organization that studied a wide variety of governance issues, including campaign financing, the initiative process, term limits, redistricting and voter information. Mr. Stern has testified before numerous legislative bodies throughout the United States and Canada.
J.W. August, San Diego
Mr. August, a former president and founding director of Californians Aware, is the senior investigative producer at KGTV/10News, the ABC television affiliate in San Diego. He has reported on a wide range of topics, from the environment to politics to criminal justice issues. He has been integral part of the longest running investigative broadcast team in Southern California. In his career, Mr. August has been recognized by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for exposing fraud and received the public service award from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Numerous advocacy groups have thanked him for his work on behalf of the public, including the San Diego Environmental Health Coalition and San Diego Hunger Coalition. National, state and local press and broadcast organizations have presented him with more than 125 awards. The National Press Club recognized him for consumer reporting, and Investigative Reporters and Editors recognized him for outstanding investigative reporting. The National Society of Professional Journalists awarded him their "Sunshine Award" for his efforts in fighting for open government. The Freedom Foundation awarded his team their national award for reporting on hate crimes. He has won 34 Emmys for investigative and consumer reporting, writing, and journalistic enterprise. The San Diego Press Club and the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences have recognized him for lifetime achievement in the news business. He is the former president of the San Diego Society of Professional Journalists and is currently president and one of the original founding members of the Bilateral Safety Corridor Coalition, a border based non-profit actively involved in combating sex trafficking.
Julie Hayward Biggs, Riverside
Ms. Biggs is a partner in the law firm of Aleshire & Wynder, LLP. She is the designated City Attorney for the City of Menifee and also provides expert representation to virtually all other clients of the firm in the areas of general municipal law, land use, election, healthcare and Public Records Act issues. Ms. Biggs has special expertise in the complex process of incorporating new cities. She has represented the proponents of incorporation in their successful effort to create the Cities of Laguna Woods in 1999, Goleta in 2002 and Wildomar in 2008. Over the course of her career, Ms. Biggs has represented numerous public agencies and municipalities in Southern California and in Colorado, including the cities of Wildomar, Goleta, Banning, Hemet and Colton as city cttorney, as well as Fontana, Corona, Redlands and Elk Grove as special counsel. Ms. Biggs has served as an adjunct professor at the University of Redlands Whitehead Center where she taught courses in environmental law and at the University of California at Riverside where she taught courses in the Public Records Act. Ms. Biggs was also invited to participate as a panelist in the State Bar of California’s Open Meeting and Public Records Act conferences in 2013 and 2014.
Marjie Lundstrom, Sacramento
Ms. Lundstrom, a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, is a reporter at The Sacramento Bee, where she is assigned to its projects and investigations team. In 2008, She was one of the first reporters in California to test a new state law requiring the release of confidential government records of children who die of suspected abuse or neglect. Her three-year investigation of Sacramento County's Child Protective Services, and the mysterious death of a 4-year-old foster child, prompted numerous reforms in the county's child welfare system. Ms. Lundstrom's work was honored in 2008 with the James Madison Freedom of Information Award from the Society of Professional Journalists, Northern California chapter. The same year, she was commended for a "lifelong commitment to the public's right to know" by the California Newspaper Publishers Association, receiving its 2008 Freedom of Information Award. The following year, she and her husband, Bee reporter Sam Stanton—who joined her for critical follow-up work on the CPS series—were given the First Amendment Award from the national Society of Professional Journalists for their "their extraordinarily strong efforts to preserve and strengthen the First Amendment." Ms. Lundstrom previously worked for The Denver Post and Gannett News Service in Washington, D.C., and has been a national correspondent, city editor, assistant managing editor and columnist before joining the investigative team.
Emelyn Rodriguez, Sacramento
Ms. Rodriguez is Commission Counsel with the Fair Political Practices Commission where she advises the Commission, writes regulations and provides legal assistance to public officials in the areas of campaign finance and conflict of interest laws. During her time at the FPPC, Ms. Rodriguez has written the state's Electronic Media Advertising regulations, as well as rules to close loopholes involving political legal defense funds. She has served on the FPPC Chairman's Task Force, which issued a report with detailed recommendations to improve and modernize California's Political Reform Act. Prior to her legal career, Rodriguez worked as a print journalist for newspapers including the Los Angeles Times, The Seattle Times and the San Francisco Examiner. She also worked as senior editor for the California Journal, the state's top political magazine. As a reporter, Ms. Rodriguez's assignments included covering healthcare and medicine, education and law. She was a national finalist for the prestigious Livingston Award, honoring the best young journalists in the country. She has worked extensively in public service, volunteering for non-profit organizations such as United Way and Legal Services. Ms. Rodriguez is a U.C. Berkeley graduate with B.A. degrees in Mass Communications and Political Science. She is also has a J.D. degree from U.C. Davis' King Hall School of Law.
Dan Laidman, Los Angeles
Mr. Laidman is an associate at Davis Wright Tremaine LLP, where he focuses his practice on media and First Amendment litigation matters, including public records and courtroom access, newsgathering, prior restraint, defamation, privacy, and copyright issues. Prior to practicing law, Dan worked as a reporter for news outlets including the Monterey Herald, Contra Costa Times, Los Angeles Daily News, and Copley News Service. His representative experience includes:
- Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs v. Los Angeles Times, in which he successfully defended against an effort by the union representing Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputies to restrain the Los Angeles Times from publishing information from Sheriff’s Department background investigative files;
- Marken v. Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District, in which he successfully represented a UCLA professor in a California Public Records Act lawsuit to obtain access to public records of a high school teacher disciplined by the SMMUSD.
- Coleman v. Brown, in which he represented the Los Angeles Times in a successful emergency petition to the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to vacate a prior restraint in a high-profile lawsuit about California’s treatment of mentally ill prisoners
- Crews v. Willows Unified Sch. Dist., in which he represented media amici in a matter of first impression under the Public Records Act, resulting in a published opinion reversing a trial court award of attorney fees against an unsuccessful public records requester.
Kathleen Moran, Colusa
Ms. Moran has served as the elected County Clerk-Recorder for the County of Colusa since 1987. She is currently completing her sixth and final term of office. The Sacramento Valley Mirror has repeatedly noted Ms. Moran's dedication to open records and transparency during her tenure. From 2002 to 2014 she co-chaired the County Clerks Legislative Committee of the California Association of Clerks and Elections Officials. She is a former member of both the Association’s Executive Board and its Board of Directors. In addition to her Clerk-Recorder responsibilities she has also served as the Registrar of Voters and administrator of the county archives. Her interest in all phases of public records began in 1985 with her first public sector job as Clerk of the Board, where she quickly learned that in order to be effective in that setting a working knowledge of the laws governing public records was required. In 1989 Ms. Moran established the Colusa County Archives. She spent the next decade with community volunteers and interns from the Public History Program at California State University, Chico processing the county’s historical records to make them available to the public. Smaller scale archival projects continue to be interwoven with the daily work at the County Clerk’s Office and beyond, most recently a partnership project with the Sacramento Valley Museum. She has served on the County Historical Records Commission since 1988 and helps raise funds for the preservation of county historical records. She has an Associate’s Degree in Liberal Arts from Ohlone College and attended San Jose State University. She holds several professional certifications, including California Registered Election Official.
Terry Francke has a 35-year history of helping journalists, citizens and public officials understand and use their First Amendment and open government rights. With CalAware, Francke has authored comprehensive and authoritative guidebooks to California law on access to government meetings and public records and the news gathering and publication rights of journalists. Focusing on these issues in public forum law, he supervises CalAware's legislative and litigation initiatives; conducts workshops on legal compliance; helps design public records audits; supports local sunshine ordinance drafting efforts; writes CalAware Today, a blog on current developments and proposals in the law and best practices; and answers countless queries by phone and e-mail from citizens, journalists, public officials and employees, and lawyers. Francke previously served 14 years as executive director and general counsel to the California First Amendment Coalition, after a 10-year post as legal counsel for the California Newspaper Publishers Association. He has served as an advisory panel member to the National Center on Courts and the Media; taught journalism law at the Department of Communication at Stanford University; and served as an expert contributor to the 1994 major revisions to the Ralph M. Brown Act and the 2004 ballot proposition making open government a basic right of citizens under the California Constitution. Francke is a 1967 graduate of the University of Notre Dame and a 1979 graduate of McGeorge School of Law, University of the Pacific. Prior to his legal career, Francke worked as a weekly newspaper editor and in military and local government public affairs positions.