Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Open government advocate Richard McKee dies

Richard McKee, a co-founder of the open-government watchdog group CalAware, died of natural causes Saturday at his Southern California home at age 62, according to the Long Beach Press-Telegram.

McKee was a retired chemistry professor and planning commissioner in the city of La Verne. But his interest was in keeping the government transparent through open records and public meetings.

McKee waged battles to open government records and public meetings statewide including, most recently, in San Carlos. On behalf of CalAware, he complained that the City Council has violated the Brown Act when it selected in closed session two council members to negotiate a fire contract in March. San Carlos officials eventually saw the error of their ways and did the appointment over again, in an open session.

He filed nearly 30 lawsuits against public agencies in the past 16 years, winning the vast majority.

In the mid 1990s, McKee founded the nonprofit group Californians Aware with Terry Francke, the group's general counsel. Francke described McKee as an outspoken and dedicated advocate for public participation in local government.

"He was a big guy in personality, in generousness and in enthusiasm for opening up government to public participation," Francke said. "He was very good humored and very gentlemanly. He was a skilled persuader."

CalAware has posted a statement on its site.

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