Plenary Speakers

Dr. Patrice McDermot

Patrice McDermott recently retired as Executive Director of OpenTheGovernment.org, a coalition transcending party lines of more than 90 consumer and good- and limited-government groups, librarians, environmentalists, journalists, and others – focused on pushing back governmental secrecy and promoting openness.

During her tenure, between July 2006 and March 2017, Patrice McDermott brought OTG to the forefront of progress on government transparency and accountability, including successful efforts to reform the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), ensure preservation of the Senate Torture Report, combat secrecy around surveillance programs in the wake of the Snowden revelations, and engage the openness community in such diverse policy areas as trade, immigration, and law enforcement accountability.

McDermott became the OTG coalition’s Director in 2006, after more than 4 years as the Deputy Director of the Office of Government Relations at the American Library Association Washington Office. She joined ALA in December 2001, after having served for 8 years as the senior information policy analyst for OMB Watch.  Her previous work includes the National Archives and Records Administration, Clark Atlanta University, and the American Library Association Office for Intellectual Freedom.

Dr. McDermott is the author of Who Needs to Know? The State of Public Access to Federal Government Information.  On March 16, 2011, she received the James Madison Award from the American Library Association in recognition of her work to champion, protect, and promote public access to government information and the public’s right to know. She was inducted into the National Freedom of Information Act Hall of Fame in 2001.

Patrice was awarded her doctorate from the University of Arizona in political science and received an M.Ln. in library and information management from Emory University and an M.A. from Brown University. She is a graduate of Florida State University.

Under Dr. McDermott, OpenTheGovernment.org was the linchpin of the transparency community’s work with the Obama Administration on open government from 2009 – 2016.  OTG and its partner organizations have played an instrumental role in the positive changes for government openness of the past several years.  OTG promoted and amplified the change by serving as informal advisors to the White House and to several agencies on issues of concern to our community and the public (such as the Open Government Partnership, the Open Government Directive and the high-value data sets on Data.gov, the Executive Order on Classified National Security Information, the initiatives of the White House related to sensitive but unclassified information, implementation of improvements to FOIA processes, issues of electronic records management, and more). Under Dr. McDermott’s leadership, OTG also coordinated the engagement of U.S. civil society organizations in the development and implementation of the U.S. Government’s National Action Plans for the Open Government Partnership.

Mr. William Beausang, Assistant Secretary | Head of Central Expenditure Policy and Reporting Division Department of Public Expenditure and Reform:

William Beausang as Head of the Government Reform Unit in the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform (DPER) from mid-2011 until the end of 2015 had responsibility for a number of open government and transparency initiatives over that period including the Ombudsman Amendment Act (2012), the Protected Disclosures Act (2014), the Freedom of Information Act  (2014), the Regulation of Lobbying Act (2015), the Public Sector Standards Bill (2015) as well as Ireland’s first Open Government Partnership National Action Plan and the Open Data Initiative (data.gov.ie).  He is currently Head of Central Expenditure Policy in the DPER and previously worked as an and as an Assistant Secretary in the Banking and Financial Services Division of the Department of Finance (2005-11).   He has Masters degrees in economics from UCD and Tilburg University.

Cori Zarek

Cori Zarek is currently a senior fellow with the Mozilla Foundation working on transparency and tech policy. Most recently, she was Deputy U.S. Chief Technology Officer at the White House where she led the team’s work to build a more digital, open, and collaborative government. Cori also coordinated U.S. involvement with the global Open Government Partnership, a 75-country platform driving greater transparency and accountability around the world. Previously, she was an attorney at the U.S. National Archives, working on open government and freedom of information policy. Before joining the government, Cori was the Freedom of Information Director at The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press where she assisted journalists with legal issues, and she also practiced for a Washington law firm. Cori received her B.A. from the University of Iowa where she was editor of the student-run newspaper The Daily Iowan. Cori also received her J.D. from the University of Iowa where she wrote for the Iowa Law Review and The Des Moines Register. She was inducted into the Freedom of Information Hall of Fame in 2016. Outside the office, Cori is the President of the D.C. Open Government Coalition and teaches a communication law class at American University.

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