Op-Ed: Sunshine Brigade helps citizens use information

“Freedom of the press is not, and has never been, a private property right granted to those who own the news media.

“It is a cherished and almost sacred right of each citizen to be informed about current events on a timely basis so each can exercise his discretion in determining the destiny and security of himself, other people, and the Nation.”

– The Florida Supreme Court, 1977.

The Internet has given people other than professional journalists a much greater role in the use of public information.

They may be bloggers practicing “citizen journalism” or simply people who want to know more about what government is up to.

The First Amendment Foundation, a Tallahassee-based, media-supported nonprofit organization advocating for open government, has recruited a Sunshine Brigade of 34 people statewide, seven from Southwest Florida.

The recruits have backgrounds that will make them helpful to people trying to use public records. Ask them to help you in your search.

People who wish to contact members of the brigade should call Barbara Petersen with the foundation at 800-337-3518.

Visit floridafaf.org for information about the foundation.

Mark Benson
Hometown: Fort Myers.
Profession: Retired community association manager, Real Estate Broker, certified county court mediator.
He is from Chicago; he and his wife Sandra have two sons, four grandsons.

Ken Cyrus
Hometown: Bonita Springs.
Profession: Retired corporate lawyer.
An Oklahoma native; graduate of Harvard Law School.

Louis Marjon
Hometown: North Fort Myers
Profession: Retired trial attorney
Practiced law for 27 years in New Mexico before moving here to be near his young daughter; member of the New Mexico Bar, and maintains a practice in New Mexico; certified by the Florida Supreme Court as both a circuit civil mediator, and a family law mediator.

Jim Pastore
Hometown: Estero
Profession: Retired Youngstown, Ohio, police officer.
Retired after serving more than 21 years as a police officer; worked in vice, patrol and as crime scene technician; served as president of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 43, and was on the National FOP ways and means committee. Also served in the Navy. Married with three children.

Mario Sanchez
Hometown: Marco Island.
Profession: Professor, computer science.
Among other activities, successfully sued the EPA under the Freedom of Information Act, leading to the release of the documents showing Marco Island and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection violated federal clean water and clear air acts.

Carroll Swanson
Hometown: Fort Myers.
Profession: Retired federal intelligence analyst.
Spent 34 years as an intelligence analyst for the federal government, most in the Defense Intelligence Agency, Department of Defense, Washington; Intelligence officer for the U.S. Army in Vietnam; master’s degree, American University.

Terry Turner
Hometown: Fort Myers Beach
Profession: Certified public accountant.
As European CFO for Cabot Corp., a specialty chemical company, managed 16 locations, and developed a European service center. He has owned his own accounting firm.

–   Compiled by Mark Stephens, senior editorial writer, The News-Press editorial board.