Monday, February 06, 2012

Who Gets to Decide Whom the Media Is? Part 15 New Mexico Foundation for Open Government

What’s Wrong With This Picture?
New Mexico Foundation for Open Government
October 8, 2010
The New Mexico Foundation for Open Government, a mix of media administrators, lawyers, and citizens held a board meeting.
The 26-member NMFOG board of directors is self-appointed; the dues paying membership, called supporters, have no role in either selecting their leadership or the direction they take.
However, supporters may have an item placed on the board’s agenda.
MacQuigg was an APS shop teacher and Character Counts instructor to adult administrators, teachers, staff, and thousands of students; he was fired for enforcing the standards of "Character Counts." He was rehired after an arbitrator found his firing improper and four months later entered into a settlement that forced him into retirement.
MacQuigg writes his blog, in part as a cathartic release He joined FOG to object to FOG Board member Martin Esquivel being elected president. Esquivel is also president of APS' Board of Education and was the 2006 recipient of the Dixon award for law.
Esquivel was not present Friday, except as the questioner of the award recipients on their prerecorded video introductions, had told Janice Arnold-Jones when she was interviewed that he was the new president of FOG.
MacQuigg is single-minded about the importance of character and ethics in the education process and fights against the hypocrisy shown by adults who have abdicated their role-modeling obligation by doing what they want without any regard to be ethical, or follow the rule of law, or provide for due process.
Members of the board seemed interested in MacQuiggs’ presentation with several asking him specific questions. This group appeared to grasp the positions he put forward better than any other group to which I have seen him speak. However, to some his smeared reputation preceded him.
The FOG board listened to reports from Executive Director Sarah Welsh on the status of recent cases, legislative efforts, and intended future actions. Individual members reported on their actions in the name of FOG.
Victor Marshall attorney for former state investment officer at the Educational Retirement Board, Frank Foy, gave report on the progress of the fraud lawsuits Foy brought involving the State Investment Council and the ERA.
The board had a discussion on suggested amending their by-laws, which hadn’t been updated in years. The conversation seemed to exclude the broader membership; so I asked if I might ask some questions. The president allowed it. My question was who selected the FOG board, was it through elections or self-appointment. When I got the answer, I stepped back.
FOG board member and Treasurer Pat Rogers, right, who is also National Republican Committeeman, reported on a possible piece of legislation to be put forward at the next session. The proposal is about acquiring requests for public records in electronic form. Rogers has a clause that would allow the governmental entity to charge a fee for transferring the electronic information to another form of electronic medium that the requester asked for.
The existing Inspection of Public Records Act Chapter 14, Article 2 NMSA 1978.
§ 14-2-8. Procedure for requesting records
B. Nothing in the Inspection of Public Records Act shall be construed to require a public body to create a public record.
§ 14-2-9. Procedure for inspection
A. Requested public records containing information that is exempt and nonexempt from disclosure shall be separated by the custodian prior to inspection, and the nonexempt information shall be made available for inspection. If necessary to preserve the integrity of computer data or the confidentiality of exempt information contained in a database, a partial printout of data containing public records or information may be furnished in lieu of an entire database. (Emphasis added).
(4) shall not charge a fee for the cost of determining whether any public record is subject to disclosure; and….
Sen. Stephen H. Fischmann introduced Senate Bill 52: Providing for Delivery of Copies of Public Records in Electronic Format.
That evening, before the awards banquet, I spoke with Rogers. He thanked me for my speaking about the lack of input at FOG from its dues paying members.
I told him I thought organizations like FOG should include their dues-paying members.
"A man can only take so much democracy," Rogers said.
I can understand why the FOG board is a self-appointing entity; it is done under the guise of efficiency in making decisions, which are of legal analysis and most often pertain to media access to records and open meetings. The economics of the foundation’s operations are dependent on grants and supporters. The lawyers who do the legal work do so pro bono (free). So, the dues paying membership is represented by three non-legal or media management members. There is only one street level media persona, who is also a pecan farmer. There seems to be missing a truly street level government beat reporter who is dealing day-to-day with the actual problems of acquiring public records and access to public meetings.
Any thought I might have harbored about FOG sunk further than the low regard I already held for the organization.
If placed into a metaphoric example, of the distance a suicidal person flinging them self off a skyscraper to the sidewalk; the equivalent drop for FOG would be from the threshold of the front door; only a couple of inches.
It brings out the Marxist in me; I’ve used the joke before. Not Karl Marx, but Groucho, “I won't belong to any organization that would have me as a member.”
New Mexico Foundation for Open Government’s 2010 Dixon Award Winners were presented at FOG’s annual banquet ceremony June 12.
State Senator Tim Eichenberg, (D) Bernailillo County speaking with Green Party Candidate for NM Congressional District 1, Alan Woodruff prior to the social hour. Woodruff was not permitted on the ballot.
The Rodey firm was the presenter of Friday night's event and had a large banner over the stage. One of Rodey's lawyers, Kip Purcell, the reelected president of the board, emceed the evening.
Las Cruces based blogger Heath Haussamen, who is a FOG supporter nominated Rep. Janice Arnold-Jones the William S. Dixon First Amendment Freedom Award for the Government category.
FOG Vice President Terri Cole, right, is President and CEO, of the Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce nominated Arnold-Jones before the board. Cole, seen here with FOG’s Executive Director Welsh, made the presentation for the government award to Arnold-Jones.
Arnold-Jones, interviewed by KOAT TV before the dinner, was cited for webcasting the two committees upon which she sits during the 2009 legislative session, risking violating House rules. Her efforts opened up audio and video webcasting during the 2010 session.
At Arnold-Jones' Saturday morning group MacQuigg advocated taking pitchforks and torches to the 2008 legislative special session. I modified his suggestion to a newer technology, instead of torches and pitchforks, bring video cameras and post significant legislative actions on YouTube.
In accepting the award, Arnold-Jones spoke about the history of the transparency movement through video coverage of the legislature, starting some three years earlier by Sen. Mark Boitano's efforts to successfully push through legislation for webcasting the legislature.
However, Boitano's efforts were totally undermined when, after the cameras were mounted in the Senate chambers, the Senate Committee on Committees ordered their removal.
That act awakened the press, public and Arnold-Jones in demanding more transparency.
Arnold-Jones listed a number of people from her Saturday morning group who had helped in getting her webcam up and running successfully.
She named five people, several of whom were in the room, who were supporting her, “Ched MacQuigg, Mark Bralley, Charles Christman, Charles Tipton and Howard De La Cruz-Bancroft; and they were just the Techno-Weenies."
"Techno-Weenies?" what a great honor it was.
“There are a whole group of people who believe that government is of the people, by the people, and for the people,” She said. “You got a problem with that? That’s what they believe; that’s what I believe. That is what this award is about.”
“The webcam is about you the people; and as an elected, and though I am leaving the legislature, I will tell you that every piece of legislation is better when you raise your hand,” Arnold-Jones said. “When you ask questions, and when you participate, of the people, by the people, and for the people; we cannot do it without you,”
The other four recipients, clockwise from top left, were for: Business, Norm Becker, Education, APS Superintendent Winston Brooks, Law, Hal Simmons, private attorney, and Journalism, Robert B. Trapp, Rio Grande SUN Managing Editor.
Brooks, above, was not present to accept his award, because he was on a long planned cruise with his wife celebrating their 30th anniversary. APS’ Director of Government Affairs Joseph Escobedo accepted the award on behalf of Brooks.
Journal Editor and FOG Secretary Kent Walz had nominated Brooks because he had made getting public records easier for Journal's education reporters. Walz disregarded the fact that Brooks' actions only applied to the Journal and the APS Communications office still makes it very difficult for others to retrieve information.
Arnold-Jones was relieved that Brooks was not in attendance because she wasn't sure she was willing to be honored on the same stage with Brooks.
Bill Dixon was truly appreciated by FOG and others in the legal and media communities for his long time in service and his dedicated work.
FOG is protecting bottom line interests of mainline media outlets and their lawyers, many of whom are recipients of the Dixon Awards' legal category.
Ultimately, FOG is a backslapping “Good Ol’ Boy” network, known for giving awards to their own board members for their efforts in advancing their vested self-interests. FOG believes that by making such awards for the vested interest, they are also protecting the society at large.
However, many at the lower levels of producing material for the commercial media and independent journalists don’t see FOG’s efforts as assisting the specific goals of informing society of important issues.
The William S. Dixon First Amendment Freedom Awards have been given since 2002, with the exception of 2007. There are five awarded categories: Business, Law, Media/Journalism, Education, and Government. Not all categories have been awarded every year.
None of the recipients in the Business, Education, or Government categories were on FOG’s board, membership or benefactors list when they received their awards, while all the Media/Journalism and Law recipients were associated with FOG, in person or through their employers.
Former recipients have been:
Jeff Sterba – Business
Daniel H. Lopez Education
Martin Chávez – Government
Michael Stanford Business
Charles PeiferLaw
Ted Hobbs Government
Jamie Koch Business
Patrick Rogers Law
J. Sean McCleneghan Education
Max Coll Government
Jim Hinton Business
Daniel Yohalem Law
Sam Spencer Business
Martin Esquivel Law
Pat Graff Education

1 comment:

Mark said...

MacQuigg was my shop teacher 25 years ago...he was one of the best teachers I ever had. I remember him to this day!