Voice of OC News Team Routinely Brings in Top Awards, Honors

Voice of OC’s news team – presently one editor, three reporters, a freelance photographer and two interns – is routinely awarded top recognition by journalism organizations. Our new awards page provides a full index of all these awards and recognition since our founding on March 31, 2010.

And while you may be familiar with our latest award-winning work, here are a few flashbacks to some of our earliest and best stories:

A story from our first year was awarded Best Investigative Story by the Orange County Press Club. Tracy Wood and Adam Elmahrek co-wrote: “Questions Swirl Around Water District Director’s Expense Reports.”

Orange City Councilman Denis Bilodeau, who also is a director of the Orange County Water District, billed the water agency nearly $3,500 for meetings he either didn’t attend or that didn’t occur, according to official Water District records.

In 2012, the story “Regulators Say They Can’t Find Key Record on San Onofre Changes” by Nick Gerda was awarded Best Investigative Story by the Orange County Press Club.

Federal officials investigating excessive tube wear, which caused a small radiation leak at the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, cannot produce documentation of a presentation by operator Southern California Edison that focused on the level of federal scrutiny required for design changes at the plant.

And in 2015, Best News Story was the award given Nick Gerda’s story “Supervisors Backed Off Criticism of Jail Phones After Contributions From Vendor

The concern coming from Orange County supervisors Shawn Nelson and Todd Spitzer was palpable at a supervisors’ meeting in June 2014.

But fast-forward a few months to November 2014, when a new jail phones contract went before supervisors, and the supervisors’ concern seemed to have melted away. The contract called for the exact same prices – $4 per call plus fees – yet there was not a peep of opposition from Nelson or Spitzer, who voted for it.

Worth at least $4.3 million per year in revenue to the county, the contract was approved on a 4-1 vote, with then-Supervisor Janet Nguyen the sole opposition. Nguyen’s vote meant that Spitzer and Nelson would have had a majority if they wanted to turn down the contract until the call prices were lowered.

So what changed their minds?

One possible factor is that on June 30, 2014, just days after Spitzer raised his concerns, the jail phone company, Global Tel-Link Corporation, contributed $1,900, the maximum possible, to his re-election campaign.