FARMINGTON — Sammy Lopez, publisher of The Daily Times, will receive a 2008 William S. Dixon First Amendment Freedom award from the New Mexico Foundation for Open Government

The award is one of three to be presented during a dinner April 4 in Albuquerque. It recognizes "outstanding work on behalf of the First Amendment and open government," according to a press release from the foundation, known as FOG.

Lopez's award recognizes his longtime commitment to fighting for open government.

The Daily Times sued the city of Farmington in June 2007 to force the release of all 91 applications for the city manager position, the most powerful administrative position in city government. The city chose to keep those records secret.

When a district court sided with the newspaper, the City Council decided to appeal in a split vote. Lopez decided the paper also would continue the lawsuit. It has cost the newspaper about $70,000 as of February. Both sides are waiting for the next court date.

"It's not that often smaller town papers (sue to release records)," FOG Director Leonard DeLayo said. "I think it's tough in a smaller town just because everybody knows everybody and nobody likes a lawsuit."

The other Dixon Award winners are Albuquerque City Attorney Robert M. White, and attorney Gregory P. Williams of the law firm Dines & Gross. The award is given out annually to journalists, educators, lawyers and business people.

Lopez has served as the publisher of The Daily Times since 2004. The newspaper and its many sister publications and Web sites, including the Four Corners Business Journal, serves readers and consumers in New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona and Utah.

"I am honored," Lopez said. "The fight for public records and open meetings must continue if democracy is going to prevail. It is our duty as the Fourth Estate to help preserve the public's right to know and hold our elected officials accountable to conduct open meetings."

In addition to the ongoing city manager applications lawsuit, the publisher also sought and successfully achieved an attorney general's opinion against the city when it went behind closed doors and met in secret to discuss the city manager hiring process. The attorney general warned that such meetings are, under law, required to be conducted in open.

"We did determine there had been an Open Meetings Act violation ... when the closed meeting discussion expanded to policies and procedures for filling the city manager job," said New Mexico Attorney General's Office Spokesman Phil Sisnerous.

Lopez led similar fights earlier in his career when he served newspapers throughout New Mexico, including a previous case in Las Cruces in which the newspaper challenged the ethics of private meetings and votes by that city's elected government.

"It's not every day you get a publisher who is willing to support often risky and costly fights like that, and to do so because he knows it is for just cause," said Daily Times Editor Troy Turner.

"Sammy not only wants to back his newsroom in such fights, he wants to roll up his sleeves and jump on the legal front lines when it comes to enforcing First Amendment laws in court. Newsroom staffers love that, and we hope the readers who most benefit from open government understand how fortunate they are to have a newspaper publisher and company willing to wage such fights," Turner said. "Many of them back down. Not Sammy, and not MediaNews."

MediaNews Group is the parent company of The Daily Times and fully supports the newspaper's fights for open government, which include not only battles with the city of Farmington, but past calls for accountability with local school districts, state and federal officials, and with the Navajo Nation leadership.

"Many people fail to understand that if we don't fight these battles now, it would lead to an extremely dangerous and unchecked erosion of our democracy," Turner said. "Readers don't always find these kind of fights so important. But they certainly soon would if we started losing them. Or worse, if we just quit fighting.

"There often is a lot of risk involved when Sammy makes these decisions. That's why Sammy's award and recognition is so special and so well deserved."

Lopez has a long history of newspaper leadership extending throughout New Mexico.

He was publisher of the Las Cruces Sun News during 2003-2004, and from 1995-2003 he was publisher of the Current-Argus in Carlsbad.

During 1994-1995 he was the publisher and group manager for WorldWest Ltd Liability Co.

He did consulting work for papers, including The Daily Times, during the early 1990s, and he was the regional manager for Raljon Publishing, supervising eight newspapers from 1990-1994. His work included the 235,000-circulation Los Angeles Daily News, where he worked with a specially assembled management team after the earthquake of 1994.

Lopez began his ties to journalism as a photographer at the Santa Fe New Mexican in 1974, and during the following years his service included stints at the Valencia County News Bulletin, the De Baca County News, The Taos News and the Deming Headlight.

He has won several awards over the years for his personal advertising and journalism skills.

Lopez and his wife, Kathy, live in Farmington with their daughter, Melinda. Lopez is an avid golfer and enjoys the outdoors.

Daily Times publisher, Lopez,

to receive 2008 Dixon Award

FARMINGTON — Sammy Lopez, publisher of The Daily Times, will receive a 2008 William S. Dixon First Amendment Freedom award from the New Mexico Foundation for Open Government

The award is one of three to be presented during a dinner April 4 in Albuquerque. It recognizes "outstanding work on behalf of the First Amendment and open government," according to a press release from the foundation, known as FOG.

Lopez's award recognizes his longtime commitment to fighting for open government.

The Daily Times sued the city of Farmington in June 2007 to force the release of all 91 applications for the city manager position, the most powerful administrative position in city government. The city chose to keep those records secret.

When a district court sided with the newspaper, the City Council decided to appeal in a split vote. Lopez decided the paper also would continue the lawsuit. It has cost the newspaper about $70,000 as of February. Both sides are waiting for the next court date.

"It's not that often smaller town papers (sue to release records)," FOG Director Leonard DeLayo said. "I think it's tough in a smaller town just because everybody knows everybody and nobody likes a lawsuit."

The other Dixon Award winners are Albuquerque City Attorney Robert M. White, and attorney Gregory P. Williams of the law firm Dines & Gross. The award is given out annually to journalists, educators, lawyers and business people.

Lopez has served as the publisher of The Daily Times since 2004. The newspaper and its many sister publications and Web sites, including the Four Corners Business Journal, serves readers and consumers in New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona and Utah.

"I am honored," Lopez said. "The fight for public records and open meetings must continue if democracy is going to prevail. It is our duty as the Fourth Estate to help preserve the public's right to know and hold our elected officials accountable to conduct open meetings."

In addition to the ongoing city manager applications lawsuit, the publisher also sought and successfully achieved an attorney general's opinion against the city when it went behind closed doors and met in secret to discuss the city manager hiring process. The attorney general warned that such meetings are, under law, required to be conducted in open.

"We did determine there had been an Open Meetings Act violation ... when the closed meeting discussion expanded to policies and procedures for filling the city manager job," said New Mexico Attorney General's Office Spokesman Phil Sisnerous.

Lopez led similar fights earlier in his career when he served newspapers throughout New Mexico, including a previous case in Las Cruces in which the newspaper challenged the ethics of private meetings and votes by that city's elected government.

"It's not every day you get a publisher who is willing to support often risky and costly fights like that, and to do so because he knows it is for just cause," said Daily Times Editor Troy Turner.

"Sammy not only wants to back his newsroom in such fights, he wants to roll up his sleeves and jump on the legal front lines when it comes to enforcing First Amendment laws in court. Newsroom staffers love that, and we hope the readers who most benefit from open government understand how fortunate they are to have a newspaper publisher and company willing to wage such fights," Turner said. "Many of them back down. Not Sammy, and not MediaNews."

MediaNews Group is the parent company of The Daily Times and fully supports the newspaper's fights for open government, which include not only battles with the city of Farmington, but past calls for accountability with local school districts, state and federal officials, and with the Navajo Nation leadership.

"Many people fail to understand that if we don't fight these battles now, it would lead to an extremely dangerous and unchecked erosion of our democracy," Turner said. "Readers don't always find these kind of fights so important. But they certainly soon would if we started losing them. Or worse, if we just quit fighting.

"There often is a lot of risk involved when Sammy makes these decisions. That's why Sammy's award and recognition is so special and so well deserved."

Lopez has a long history of newspaper leadership extending throughout New Mexico.

He was publisher of the Las Cruces Sun News during 2003-2004, and from 1995-2003 he was publisher of the Current-Argus in Carlsbad.

During 1994-1995 he was the publisher and group manager for WorldWest Ltd Liability Co.

He did consulting work for papers, including The Daily Times, during the early 1990s, and he was the regional manager for Raljon Publishing, supervising eight newspapers from 1990-1994. His work included the 235,000-circulation Los Angeles Daily News, where he worked with a specially assembled management team after the earthquake of 1994.

Lopez began his ties to journalism as a photographer at the Santa Fe New Mexican in 1974, and during the following years his service included stints at the Valencia County News Bulletin, the De Baca County News, The Taos News and the Deming Headlight.

He has won several awards over the years for his personal advertising and journalism skills.

Lopez and his wife, Kathy, live in Farmington with their daughter, Melinda. Lopez is an avid golfer and enjoys the outdoors.