Bloomfield native Randy Evans is one of four Iowans who will receive the Louise Noun Award at the ACLU of Iowa’s Bill of Rights Brunch on Saturday, October 12 at the Des Moines Hilton.
The ACLU annually gives Louise Noun awards to honor Iowans who have demonstrated a long-term commitment to this country’s most basic rights and freedoms.
Evans is being recognized for his leadership of the Iowa Freedom of Information Council and career-long commitment to freedom of the press.
Kenneth Bunch and Tracy Bjorgum are being recognized for their early advocacy work in marriage equality. Tracy died in 1989 and is being given the award posthumously.
The Honorable Mark W. Bennett is being recognized for his distinguished legal career defending civil liberties for more than four decades.
Evans is the former Des Moines Register editorial pages editor and the current executive director of the Iowa Freedom of Information (FOI) Council.
Under his leadership, the FOI Council has become more active than ever in the protection and advancement of open government. The FOI Council currently is challenging the Polk County Sheriff’s department for withholding public police records, including body camera footage.
The FOI Council has also submitted an amicus brief to the Iowa Supreme Court in support of a district court’s finding in an Ottumwa case that tickets issued by traffic cameras are subject to the public records law — a position the Ottumwa Police Department is challenging.
The FOI Council was also instrumental in the success of the first “ag gag” lawsuit filed by the ACLU of Iowa and other groups. In that case, the FOI Council filed an amicus curiae brief with the district court explaining the burden the ag gag law posed to news-gatherers and investigative reporters.
“At a time when the Iowa Public Information Board has been counterproductive in its role to ensure open government, the FOI Council has become increasingly important. Randy’s leadership has come at a critical time for transparent government in Iowa,” said Mark Stringer, Executive Director of Iowa’s ACLU.
Additionally, Evans was an important collaborator with Art Cullen of The Storm Lake Times in his reporting, and series of Pulitzer Prize winning editorials, about the Iowa Farm Bureau’s secretive funding of the Buena Vista, Calhoun and Sac Counties’ litigation costs in the Des Moines Water Works lawsuit.
He’s also been a go-to media spokesperson for many free speech and open government issues, adding important insights (and always colorful quotes) to the public discussion.
Evans’ FOI Council involvement follows a strong history of being on the right side of many key civil liberties issues of our day. As the long-time editor of the Des Moines Register editorial pages, he was a vocal and stalwart defender of free speech and many other civil liberties issues.
Following his retirement from the Register, Evans began writing his column, Stray Thoughts, for The Bloomfield Democrat. (Evans worked for the Democrat during his high school and college years.) That column, often focusing on freedom of speech, is reprinted in numerous Iowa newspapers.