TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- The editor of The Florida Times-Union on Tuesday received an award from the Florida First Amendment Foundation for fighting for open government through litigation.
Frank Denton was on hand to receive the James C. Adkins/Sunshine Litigation Award at the Governor's Club during Sunshine Week celebrations. Denton received the award for three high-profile public records lawsuits the paper pursued in 2013, according to an online release from Florida FAF.
"Frank and The Florida Times-Union's unwavering support of open government and their dedication to seeing the cause through to the end demonstrates all of the values this award recognizes," said Barbara Petersen, FAF president, in an online release. "We are extremely pleased to be honoring them with this prestigious award."
The first lawsuit involved the Times-Union gaining access to Value-Added Model teacher scores. An appellate court ruled that the non-identifying information was subject to public records law.
Another suit filed in 2013 by Denton involved the City of Jacksonville's pension negotiations. Circuit Judge Waddell Wallace ruled that a month-long secret mediation that occurred among city officials, union leaders and representatives of the Police and Fire Pension Fund violated Sunshine Laws.
The next court battle involved many appellate orders to keep court proceedings open to the public. First Coast News, which has a news partnership with The Times-Union, worked alongside the paper to allow the public and the media access to the Michael Dunn murder trial jury selection.
Denton talked about the paper's partnership with FCN and the benefit to the public in bringing forth the lawsuits.
"We are blessed in Jacksonville to have First Coast News," Denton said. " ... First Coast News has joined us in some of our lawsuits in the cost and putting it forth to the public and it's meant an awful lot to the residents of Northeast Florida."
FCN General Manager Eric Land said the station is proud to partner with the T-U.
"On behalf of the team at First Coast News, we salute our coverage partners at the Times-Union and Frank Denton in particular for being awarded the James Adkins/Sunshine Litigation Award by the First Amendment Foundation," Land said. "We also appreciate the opportunity to work with the Times-Union in defending the public's right to know; protecting our rights as citizens first, then as journalists from elected officials who abuse the system and our rights to information protected by the Constitution and the United States Supreme Court."
Denton also said the award belonged to all of the staff of the Times-Union.
"The award was to me and the Florida Times-Union, but it should have been to the Times-Union because the ownership of the Times-Union, the leadership, and the ones on the front line in the newsroom really deserve this," Denton said after receiving the award. "It was an institutional effort on these lawsuits from the front-line journalism on the editorial page, but including the top leadership of the company that invested in this on behalf of the readers of Northeast Florida."