El Paso Matters efforts to win the release of public documents from the El Paso District Attorney’s Office and the Socorro Independent School District were honored Thursday by the state’s leading government transparency organization.
The work received an honorable mention in the Nancy Monson Spirit of FOI Award competition sponsored by the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas. El Paso Matters competed against news organizations based in cities with more than 500,000 people.
The winner of the award was a collaboration by the Austin American-Statesman and KVUE-TV in Austin for obtaining video that showed that state and local police had been grossly untruthful about their actions as a gunman murdered students and teachers at an Uvalde elementary school.
The Dallas Morning News also received an honorable mention in the big-city category.
For news organizations in cities with fewer than 500,000 people, KRIS-TV of Corpus Christi won the award for investigating high rates of case dismissals by the local district attorney. The Odessa American and Corpus Christi Caller-Times received honorable mentions.
El Paso Matters was recognized for two projects.
One was an effort to obtain documents that showed that identified the source of a mysterious email sent to the media criticizing the judge in the Walmart mass shooting case. Records obtained from El Paso Matters indicated the office of then-District Attorney’s Yvonne Rosales provided its media email list to the sender of the email, who was later revealed to be one of her associates, lawyer Roger Rodriguez.
The other investigation recognized with the award was a months-long effort by reporter Molly Smith to obtain an audio recording that showed a Socorro ISD trustee abusing his authority and belittling school employees.
“When governments don’t readily reveal important information to the public, journalists must step in and do it. Fortunately, the state’s Public Information Act is here for everyone, including journalists, who use the law and their reporting skills to keep Texans informed. We congratulate these news organizations for their diligent work,” said Kelley Shannon, executive director of the FOI Foundation of Texas.