Star Tribune reporter Chris Serres has won a Minnesota open-government advocacy group's highest honor for his 2017 investigative series chronicling physical, sexual, emotional and financial abuse of residents of senior homes across the state.
The series, whose photographs were taken by the Star Tribune's David Joles, revealed that elderly victims of abuse and their families were denied access to government files that should have been public. Serres "filed numerous data requests for audit reports, combed through thousands of those state records, and his work detailed criminal abuse in senior care facilities," the coalition said in a news release about the award.
During and after the Star Tribune's publication of the stories in late 2017, Gov. Mark Dayton, AARP and other organizations formed a task force focused on the health and safety of older Minnesotans. Its report, issued in January, led legislators and regulators to embrace tougher laws and measures.
Serres, 47, of Minneapolis, will be presented with the award at the group's Freedom of Information Day celebration at noon March 16 at the Minneapolis Central Library, 300 Nicollet Mall.
Also at the event, Minneapolis attorney Paul Hannah will receive the Finnegan Freedom of Information Career Achievement Award.
Soon after St. Paul Pioneer Press Editor John R. Finnegan Sr. founded the Minnesota Joint Media Committee in the 1970s, Hannah joined forces with him to advocate for openness in government, including cameras in the court. For almost two decades, the Best Lawyers in America honored Hannah by listing him in its First Amendment Law area.
The keynote presentation at the event will be "Seeking Sunshine in a Secretive Health Care System," presented by citizen lobbyist Sheila Van Pelt and Star Tribune editor James Shiffer, who serves on the coalition's board.