BUFFALO – An outspoken government transparency group from the City of Buffalo will honor a leader of the Lockport Union Sun & Journal's newsroom Wednesday.
In addition to a panel discussion featuring a pair of experienced local journalists, the Buffalo Niagara Coalition on Open Government will recognize Regional News Director Mark Scheer for his years of dogged reporting in the region.
Coalition President Paul Wolf credited Scheer with igniting one of the group's recent successful initiatives: compelling the Niagara County Legislature to release lawmakers' annual financial disclosure forms to the public.
Wolf said he was unaware legislators were, unlike many other public officials, keeping the forms hidden from review until he encountered a story under Scheer's byline.
"We need good dedicated reporters who go after important stories, who ask tough questions and in doing so who shine a light on what our government leaders are up to," Wolf said.
"For years Mark has written many articles that bring information to the attention of the public and he deserves recognition for his important efforts," he later added.
The panel will feature Scheer, reporter Steve Brown of WGRZ Channel 2 and reporter Geoff Kelly of the Buffalo-based digital outlet Investigative Post. Discussion will focus on state Freedom of Information Law, the mechanism by which individuals can request records of municipal agencies and officials.
The event will take place at the Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural Site, 641 Delaware Ave., in Buffalo. Check-in begins at 6 p.m., with refreshments available. The panel discussion will run from 6:45 p.m. to 8 p.m.
The law is fundamental to government transparency, a condition that Wolf said is integral to a free and democratic society.
"Government officials who we elect have tremendous power over our lives whether at the local or national level," he said. "It is important that the public have access to information so that we can be informed and hold government officials accountable. The only way that we can continue to live in a free society, where elections matter is by having access to information, by having the ability to ask questions and to criticize government officials."