Freedom of Information Oklahoma, a statewide organization actively supporting organizations and individuals working to open records or provide access to government, has honored the Directors of the state Senate Communications Division and Information Systems Department with its annual Sunshine Award.
Malia Bennett has been the Senate’s Director of Communications since 2003. The Communications Division works with all 48 members of the Senate, and assists media and the public by providing information on the business of the Senate.
John Warren is the Director of the state Senate’s Department of Information Systems. The department provides technical support to all members of the Senate and staff. Warren has been Director of the department since 1998.
Given annually to a public official or governmental institution that has shown a commitment to freedom of information, the Sunshine Award was presented to Bennett and Warren by the organization for introducing a variety of innovations to give the public greater and more efficient access to the activities of the Senate.
Sen. President Pro Tempore Mike Morgan said the award was an honor that both staff and Senators can be proud of.
“We take great pride in making an emphasis on open and transparent government a priority at the state Senate,” said Morgan, D-Stillwater. “Our communications and information systems departments have been proactive and innovative in developing a variety of features to provide the public with greater access to the business of the Senate. This is a well-deserved honor for our staff.”
Sen. Co-President Pro Tempore Glenn Coffee said he was pleased that Bennett and Warren had been selected for the honor.
“We are committed to providing the public with an accessible and open state government,” said Coffee, R-Oklahoma City. “Our staff has also worked hard to further that goal, and we are proud that they have been honored with this award. The Senate will continue working to find new and innovative ways to provide the public with government information.”
The organization lauded Bennett and Warren for their efforts to take advantage of new technologies to further the goal of providing those who cannot be at the Capitol with as much information as possible. Since launching the Senate website in 1996, the two departments have worked together to offer digital audio to allow reporters from all media access to in-depth information and the legislative process. Additionally, the Senate unveiled streaming video from the Senate Chamber and the two largest committee rooms so the public can observe and hear Senate business each day the body meets.
In 2005, the Senate made wireless internet access available throughout all areas of the Senate. The group also praised the Senate for adding innovations such as the posting of all floor votes in real time, and access to all legislation, schedules and a number of publications.
Freedom of Information Oklahoma was founded in 1990 and continues their efforts to be an advocate for the public’s right of access to government information. The group’s 33-member board of directors includes attorneys, state and elected officials, journalists, educators and private citizens.