Early in May, physics professor Daniel Schroeder received an award normally given to journalists. This award was the Roy B. Gibson Freedom of Information Award.
“My day job is trying to understand the universe as well as I can and explain to other people and help them understand it…[Journalists] try to understand the universe and help people understand it,” Schroeder said of the award. “I happened to be in the right place at the right time to step in and do a little bit of their job for them. To do a little bit of investigative journalism and file an open records request.”
The reason for Schroeder’s recognition is due to an election that happened in Ogden during the 2007 election of Matt Godfrey. A scandal had happened when it came to Godfrey’s donation money for his campaign.
There was an organization that had appeared from nowhere, Schroeder believed. The organization held a fundraising banquet. Hundreds of people attended. Schroeder, through conversations with some friends, began to believe that they were raising money for the election in the coming year.
“It was Lane Johnson who laundered the money for himself and his friend Royal Eccles,” Schroeder said of his investigation results. “No one would know by the time of the election that it had actually come from Envision Ogden.”
When the election was over, Schroeder’s interest continued and he wanted to get to the bottom of the story. A criminal investigation soon happened. However, the criminal investigation only went on until they could no longer charge Eccles, Johnson, Godfrey or others for what they had done.
“My attorneys were bothered by the district court judge’s decision,” Schroeder said. “The district court had said that there wasn’t enough evidence to convict these men.”
Schroeder and his attorney filed an open records request, which they did not receive. They continued to push until the request made it to Utah’s Supreme Court.
“Even though [the request] wouldn’t have set a precedent, they thought that they could have set a precedent to make sure that things like that would never happen again,” Schroeder said of his continued legal efforts.
Once the Supreme Court took the case, Schroeder and the attorneys won the case, in which they found out that they had used the money towards their political campaign without telling the donors.
“In every legal battle, you don’t know whether you will win or lose. By the time it went to the Supreme Court…I was sure we were going to win. We won a little more decisively than I thought we might.” Schroeder said, “I couldn’t believe that people were so corrupt in this town.”