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Open government conference and reception with a special guest

Journalist Heather Brooke and Washington Attorney General Rob McKenna are featured at the Washington State Open Government Conference, Jan. 16 at the University of Washington in Seattle, 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. The conference is presented by the Washington Coalition for Open Government, Society of Professional Journalists, and University of Washington Department of Communication.

  • Attorney General Rob McKenna, opening speaker at the conference, has been a leader in the cause of greater access to government institutions. His initiatives have included model public records rules for state and local agencies and an Open Government Ombudsman to assist citizens and agencies in knowing their rights and responsibilities under Washington’s Public Records Act and Open Public Meetings Act.
  • Luncheon speaker is Heather Brooke, a UW graduate with dual U.K. and U.S. citizenship who has worked as a journalist in both countries.  Now based in London, Brooke used open government techniques first learned in Washington state to expose improper use of government funds in the largest scandal of its kind in British history.  Records released through her four-year court battle prompted the resignation of many Members of Parliament, with Michael John Martin becoming the first Speaker of the House of Commons in three centuries to be forced out by a vote of no confidence.  The BBC recently announced that this “David and Goliath story” will be told in “Bringing Down the House,” a one-hour satirical drama starring Anna Maxwell Martin as Heather Brooke, and to air in early 2010.
  • Conference attendees can choose among four presentation/discussion groups (held twice) that cover laws and practices of open government, how citizens can assert their rights, possible improvements in the laws, and proactive steps that governments can take beyond the minimum legal requirements.  The group leaders are attorney William Crittenden (on state and local public records), attorney Michelle Earl-Hubbard (on state and local open public meetings),  Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Eric Nalder (on federal, state, and local campaign finance and lobby disclosure), and attorney and environmental leader Gerry Pollet (on federal public records and open public meetings).

Registration for the Jan. 16 conference is $25 or $35 after Jan. 8. To register online: SPJ members receive a $10 discount to attend the conference. SPJ members contact Hilary Reeves to register.

To honor Heather Brooke, there will also be a reception (Friday, Jan. 15, 5-7 p.m.) in downtown Seattle.  To register on-line (suggested minimum donation is $25):

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