REGIONAL—Timberjay publisher Marshall Helmberger has been selected as this year’s recipient of the John R. Finnegan Freedom of Information Award. The annual award, presented by the Minnesota Coalition on Government Information, is named for the late St. Paul Pioneer Press news editor, who was a staunch advocate for the public’s right to know.
The award ceremony is set for Friday, March 14 in Minneapolis. Recently-retired state Supreme Court Justice Paul Anderson will deliver a keynote speech, followed by the award presentation.
The MNCoGI board selected Helmberger for the prestigious award following his recent efforts to obtain information regarding Johnson Controls’ work for the St. Louis County School District. The Minnesota Supreme Court ruled last December that JCI was not required to provide the information because the school district had failed to include a state-mandated notice in its construction oversight contract with the company. Previous courts had ruled that the lack of such an advisory provision in public contracts did not excuse companies from complying with state law, but the Supreme Court disagreed.
But the decision may only be a temporary setback. The Minnesota Legislature is currently advancing legislation that would eliminate the legal loophole carved out by the Supreme Court, which would ensure that the kind of information sought by the Timberjay would be available to the public in the future.