By Fred Brown
CFOIC Board Secretary
Geoff Wilson, former attorney and lobbyist for the Colorado Municipal League, on Wednesday was awarded the Sue O’Brien Award for Public Service for his continuing support of the principles of transparency and open government.
The award is presented by the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition board as warranted – not on an annual basis, but to recognize a career, or a specific action, that displays a public servant’s commitment to the principles of open and transparent government.
The award is specifically for a person with a professional role in government who displays a dedication to the public’s right to know. It’s named for the late Sue O’Brien, who had been both a government employee, as Gov. Dick Lamm’s press secretary, and a champion of a free press and open government – as a local and national radio reporter, University of Colorado journalism professor and editor of The Denver Post’s editorial page.
The brief presentation ceremony was held on the west steps of the Colorado Capitol on the last day of the 2018 session of the Colorado General Assembly.
In presenting the award, CFOIC President Steve Zansberg said Wilson was an appropriate representative of those public servants – the group that Colorado’s open records and open meetings laws were intended to monitor – “who have made sustained and substantial contributions to government transparency in Colorado.”
“There can be no doubt that Geoff is well deserving of this recognition,” Zansberg added.
In his 27 years as general counsel for the Colorado Municipal League, Wilson has been helpful to journalists seeking to report on the CML’s 265 member municipalities as well as to “all of the people of the state of Colorado,” Zansberg said.
Among the bills that Wilson helped to shepherd through the legislature were successful measures requiring governing bodies to be more specific about matters they plan to consider in executive session; a mandatory awarding of attorney’s fees in successful open-government court challenges; and a clarification specifying that records-seekers don’t have to be physically present to examine documents but can obtain copies via email or U.S. mail, if needed.
There have been a few inevitable disagreements, Zansberg noted. “Although we don’t always see eye-to-eye … Geoff always has an open mind,” he said.
Wilson said he was “very honored” by the recognition. “I never thought transparency in government and doing the people’s business were mutually exclusive. I think they complement each other.”
The plaque presented to Wilson recognizes “his thoughtful counseling and advocacy in support of government transparency throughout his tenure as general counsel of the Colorado Municipal League.”
Visit CFOIC’s legislature page to track bills in the General Assembly that could affect the flow or availability of information in Colorado.