What a difference a year makes.
Twelve months after the San Diego Police Department was shamed with an ignominious Wall Award for lack of public transparency, employees of two other San Diego city agencies won positive plaudits from local journalists for making records more accessible to the public and press.Maksim Pecherskiy, the city’s chief data officer, won the 2016 Sunshine Award from the San Diego Society of Professional Journalists for his work establishing San Diego as a leader in open data.
And City Clerk Elizabeth Maland won the 2016 Window Award for her office’s customer service in providing information in a timely and professional manner.
Honorees were recognized Wednesday night in the wake of national Sunshine Week at the Fifty Seven Degrees wine store in Mission Hills.
This year’s not-so-praiseworthy prize went to District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis, given the Wall Award for what San Diego SPJ depicted as foot-dragging on two records requests.
“In 2014, she refused for weeks to release a letter of recommendation she’d written for the son of a donor embroiled in a campaign finance scandal,” SPJ said. “And after a media coalition threatened to sue her, she released that letter exclusively to an outlet [KUSI] that wasn’t part of that coalition.
SPJ noted that Dumanis, whose office also sought to keep the victim’s family from releasing the video, eventually shared edited footage after a judge ruled in the family’s favor.
Dumanis’ office didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on the Wall Award.
But the city was quick to praise Pecherskiy creating an inventory of city datasets and preparing them for public release at datasd.org.
“We created this position to help establish a more open and transparent city government that better serves San Diego residents and neighborhoods, and it’s fantastic to see Maksim’s work recognized,” said Mayor Kevin Faulconer, who appointed Pecherskiy as the city’s first chief data officer in November 2014.
SPJ said Pecherskiy received numerous nominations from journalists and members of San Diego’s open data community, including from Jerry Hall of Open San Diego, Ben Cipollini of Code for America, Gabriela Dow of Plug and Play San Diego, Seth Hall of San Diego Hacks/Hackers and Eric Busboom of San Diego Regional Data Library.
“I’m very honored and humbled to win this award,” Pecherskiy said in a news release. “I believe it’s a reflection of the attitude in the city and could only be possible with support from city leadership, team members and residents.
“It’s very exciting to see the direction we’re moving in, and I’m proud to work for a city that places openness and transparency high on the agenda.”
Maland, appointed city clerk in 2005, was lauded for providing information – voting records, City Council dockets and other government documents – quickly and efficiently to the public and media. Maland also received acknowledgement for her office’s use of Twitter to provide immediate results from City Council meetings.
SPJ says the Window Award, which was given for the second year, goes to a “public official or agency that most prioritized transparency and the public’s right to know” within the past year.
“I accepted this award on behalf of the 44 women and men who work in my office and each day walk the talk of our mission: To provide accurate information and maximize access to municipal government,” Maland said. “I have been fortunate to have hired each of my deputy directors – George Biagi, Bonnie Stone and Sheila Beale – and the strides they have made in each of their divisions related to public access is amazing.”
The City Clerk’s Office provides a variety of documents online, including City Council agendas and backup materials, campaign finance reports, lobbyist disclosures and voter pamphlets dating back to 1960. The office also has digital archives that make fragile founding records – historical photos and other collections – available online for the first time ever.
Faulconer said, “Liz Maland and her entire team are consummate professionals and, for many San Diego residents and members of the press, the first contact at City Hall when they seek records and information from the City. Her office has been providing quick and easy access to public records – online and in person – for many years, and she and her staff are well-deserving of this award.”
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