Scores Gather to Remember a Unique Civic Hero

  20110507_112353_SW08-MCKEE-1 (Photo credit: Eric Reed, San Gabriel Valley Tribune)

Scores of people whose lives were touched for the better by the person and work of the late Richard McKee gathered at the Doubletree Hotel in Claremont Saturday afternoon to exchange anecdotes and expressions of gratitude for having known him.

McKee, co-founder and first president of Californians Aware, died unexpectedly at his home in La Verne April 23 at age 62.  For the past 18 years, in court and  out, he had become a nearly one-man force for keeping  government meetings and records open to the public as the law requires, especially but not only in Southern California.

For four hours Saturday afternoon an estimated 150 people visited the hotel patio where McKee's family had arranged easel displays of photos from various stages of his life and scrapbooks containing a sampling of the hundreds of newspaper clippings chronicling his litigation and other work challenging violations of the Brown Act and the California Public Records Act.

The remembrance reception, including a catered buffet, was organized by family members including Kelly Aviles, an attorney who represented him—and represents CalAware—in recent open government litigation, and Ryan McKee, a son now in the Air Force who several years ago walked the halls of Sacramento in helping CalAware conduct its first audit of the public records practices of state agencies. Other family members on hand included McKee's parents, Richard and Virginia of Azusa; sister Lindy Osbrink of San Dimas; brother Ron McKee of Indio, and partner Christine Cutter of Alta Loma.

Taking the microphone to share recollections were colleagues from the faculty of Pasadena City College, from which McKee had only recently retired after a career teaching chemistry; public officials; journalists; citizen activists and representatives of the California Newpaper Publishers Association and of CalAware, with which he had been serving as Vice President for Open Government Compliance. Tom Newton, executive director of the publishers group, recalled that McKee had helped his family with a week of packaged gourmet dinners when Newton's wife, Jan, had undergone surgery for breast cancer several years ago.

CalAware representatives addressing the gathering briefly included President Dennis Winston of Los Angeles, Executive Director Emily Francke and General Counsel Terry Francke, who pledged to maintain the zeal for transparency law compliance that marked McKee's work. CalAware board members present included JW August, a television news investigative veteran from San Diego; Bob Stern, the state's leadiing authority on government ethics, from Los Angeles; and Julie Hayward Biggs of Riverside, serving as city attorney to multiple municipalities in Southern California.

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