The Arizona Press Club is pleased to announce that Hank Stephenson, of the Arizona Capitol Times, is the winner of the 2016 Sledgehammer Award for his efforts to expose the truth.
Pima County Supervisor Ally Miller and former state legislator David Gowan are both winners of the 2016 Brick Wall Award, which is reserved for the state’s most deceptive government agencies and politicians.
Stephenson’s months-long review of a state travel base detailing thousands of trips by government officials revealed that some of the state’s most powerful lawmakers, most notably Gowan, House Speaker at the time, logged tens of thousands of miles in government cars on trips unrelated to state business. As a result, Gowan had to reimburse $12,000 in erroneous mileage and the House established a new travel policy.
During Stephenson’s investigation, Gowan’s office repeatedly refused to provide requested public records and after the initial story was printed, Gowan revoked the Arizona Capitol Times’ seat at the House press table. The Capitol times threatened to sue and Gowan backed down, although he made a number of retaliatory attempts against Stephenson, including attempting to implement a “reporter screening” process that would have barred Stephenson from receiving credentials to be on the House floor.
After a member of Miller’s staff was exposed for setting up a fake news website and interviewing local politicians, Miller blatantly covered up communications with her staffers, delaying and denying public records requests and going so far as to falsely claim they didn’t exist. She and the her staffer filed false reports with the FBI in an attempt to hide their involvement with the fake “Arizona Daily Herald” and because of her deceptive practices involving public records, the Pima County Attorney’s Office ultimately referred her for investigation by the Arizona Attorney General’s Office.
Winners of the 2016 Writing and Design Awards will be released throughout the week.