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October 13. 2012 11:20PM

Loeb School to honor two NH residents

MANCHESTER — The head of New Hampshire's Professional Fire Fighters association is this year's recipient of the First Amendment award given annually by the Nackey S. Loeb School of Communications, the school announced this weekend.

David Lang's years-long fight to force public disclosure of records from the New Hampshire Local Government Center prompted a multi-million-dollar refund to New Hampshire communities.

A panel of judges chose Lang for the honor and also chose YMCA Youth & Government Program Director Debi Clark Valentine for the school's Quill and Ink Award. They were among nominees submitted by the public.

Lang and Clark Valentine will be recognized Nov. 29 at the school's 10th annual First Amendment Awards Event at the Capitol Center for the Arts in Concord.

The event will feature an address by nationally syndicated columnist and TV commentator Patrick J. Buchanan. Buchanan, a best-selling author, won the 1996 Republican Presidential Primary in New Hampshire.

The First Amendment Award was established to honor New Hampshire organizations or residents who protect or exemplify the liberties granted in the First Amendment. Lang and the firefighters' union challenged the Local Government Center for nearly a decade for release of records about how the center handled health and liability insurance for public employees and retirees.

Through those efforts, which included frequent Right to Know Law lawsuits, the center was ordered to release information about the health plans.

After a state investigation, the LGC was ordered this year to refund $52 million to cities and towns. It is appealing the order.

The Quill & Ink Award is not given every year, but is awarded when the judges feel a First Amendment nominee is worthy of recognition for outstanding contributions to communications or public awareness of the Constitution. Clark Valentine was saluted for her “dedication in educating thousands of New Hampshire's young people about the Constitution and our form of government through the YMCA's Youth & Government Program.''

Lang and Clark Valentine will receive bronze eagles cast from an original sculpture by Mrs. Nackey Loeb, the late president and publisher of the New Hampshire Union Leader.

Mrs. Loeb founded the nonprofit school in 1999 to promote understanding and appreciation of the First Amendment and to foster interest, integrity and excellence in journalism and other forms of communication.

More than 6,000 people have participated in the school's media-related classes, workshops and other events.

The award judges were former N.H. Supreme Court Justice Richard Galway; Foster's Daily Democrat Executive Editor Rod Doherty; Union Leader Managing Editor Amy Vellucci; attorney Gregory Sullivan; and past First Amendment Award recipients John Howe, executive editor of the Citizen; and Mary Lukas, student media adviser at Londonderry High School.

Other recipients have included former Attorney General Philip McLaughlin, former Keene Sentinel Editor Thomas Kearney, state Rep. Daniel Hughes, Dover City Councilor David Scott, First Amendment attorney William Chapman, ConVal School Board member Gail Pierson Cromwell and The Portsmouth Herald.

Previous recipients of the Quill & Ink Award are retired Concord Monitor Editor Mike Pride and Robert Foster, the late publisher of Foster's Daily Democrat.

Led by presenting sponsor People's United Bank, the First Amendment Event is supported by a wide variety of business, civic and media leaders. Major supporters include: PSNH, Amoskeag Beverages, Bank of America, TD Charitable Foundation, The Common Man, Mosse & Mosse Associates, Sivertech, Fallon Community Health Plan, Southern New Hampshire University, AT&T, BAE Systems, Lincoln Financial, Live Free or Die Alliance, Wheelabrator Technologies, Fidelity Investments and The Dupont Group.

The event is a major fundraiser that enables the school to continue offering free classes and low-cost workshops on topics including the First Amendment, journalism, social media, public relations, public speaking and photography.

Tickets are $50 for the awards event or $75, including a pre-event reception. They are available at www.ccanh.com or the Capitol Center box office, 225-1111.

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