History of Montana FOI
Welcome to the Montana FOI Hotline Inc. website. For more than a quarter of a century, the Hotline has been providing valuable legal counsel to news media personnel, citizens and even government officials to improve and facilitate access to public meetings and records.
The Hotline is governed by an all-volunteer board and supported through contributions from Montana news media, academic and civic organizations, and individuals, and by grants from charitable organizations who support freedom of information issues.
Since its inception in 1988, the Montana Freedom of Information Hotline, Inc., has offered one primary service — free legal advice regarding access to public records, public meetings and public processes. (This assistance does not include litigation and does not include access to federal agencies or federal documents.)
The Hotline’s current retained attorney, Mike Meloy of the Meloy Law Firm in Helena, has received the Montana Free Press Award and is a veteran Montana attorney who has worked tirelessly on behalf of the news media and citizens to keep Montana government open at all levels. He promptly responds to inquiries by telephone, via email, and in writing, as needed.
In 2018, Meloy responded to nearly 200 requests from media professionals, citizens and even a few government officials. Indeed, while the original mission of the Hotline was to serve journalists, we have expanded over the years to also serve citizens and government employees who have questions or problems regarding public access to government-held information.
The Hotline in its early years worked cooperatively with other Montana news media and educational organizations to periodically publish and disseminate “Access in Montana,” a primer on Montana statute and case law that affects public access, and reporter’s wallet cards that advise reporters on what action to take should a public official try to close a meeting or deny access to records, or how to respond to a judge’s decision to close a public hearing. Those materials are now provided online where reporters and citizens can download the information as needed.
The Montana FOI Hotline maintains this website that serves as a media and citizen resource and repository for FOI information, as well as offering an easy way for those who need help to submit their inquiries via email. The funding for the design and creation of the website was secured through a National Freedom of Information Coalition sustainability grant and donor contributions.
The Hotline’s board of directors, in consultation with its attorney, also acts as facilitators and, in rare cases, financial contributors to legal challenges of significant FOI actions or policies by government. The Hotline has also been the sponsor and organizer of several statewide FOI conferences and set in motion the 2003 Montana Public Records Audit, which brought new awareness to FOI challenges and successes in Montana.
Meet our Board Members
Melody Martinsen, chairwoman
Editor/co-owner, Choteau Acantha Publishing Inc.
Melody Martinsen of Choteau has been the co-owner and editor of the Choteau Acantha weekly newspaper since July 1990. She previously worked at the Great Falls Tribune and is a graduate of the University of Montana School of Journalism.
She is a past president of the Montana Newspaper Association and continues to serve on the MNA Foundation board.
Jon Stepanek, vice chairman
News Director, KTVQ
Jon Stepanek is the news director of KTVQ TV in Billings, where he has worked since 1993. During that time, KTVQ has been named best newscast in Montana by the Associated Press and Montana Broadcasters Association.
Jon is a former national board member of the Radio Television News Directors Association.
Gary Moseman, treasurer
Great Falls Tribune, retired
Gary Moseman is a retired managing editor of the Great Falls Tribune, president of the Montana Newspaper Association Foundation and past president of the Montana Newspaper Association.
He is a recipient of the Montana Press Award from the schools of Law and Journalism at the University of Montana and the Wilderness Society’s Aldo Leopold Award for Distinguished Editorial Writing. He has earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees at the University of Montana.
Jackie Yamanaka, secretary
News Director, Yellowstone Public Radio
Jackie Yamanaka has been news director at Yellowstone Public Radio (YPR) in Billings since 1986. She covers a variety of issues across Montana and Wyoming, including the Montana Legislature, state government, and politics.
Executive Director, Montana Newspaper Association
Jim Rickman of Helena has been the executive director of the Montana Newspaper Association since January 2013. Jim has enjoyed 33 years in the newspaper industry as publisher; advertising, production and circulation director; and press operator.
Editor, Bozeman Daily Chronicle
Nick Ehli is editor of the Bozeman Daily Chronicle. He has worked at Montana newspapers for more than 30 years and currently serves as chairman of the Montana Newspaper Association's Legislative Affairs Committee.
He has a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Montana in Missoula.
Associate Professor, University of Montana School of Journalism
Associate Professor Lee Banville joined the UM faculty in 2009 after 13 years at PBS NewsHour, where he was editor-in-chief of the Online NewsHour. He received his bachelor of arts in English and government from the College of William & Mary and earned his master’s degree in political science from UM. He is the author of “Debating Our Destiny: Presidential Debate Moments that Shaped History,” written for MacNeil/Lehrer Productions in 2012 and updated in 2013. He is also the editorial director of the Games and Learning Publishing Council.
President/CEO, Montana Broadcasters Association
Dewey Bruce is the president and CEO of the Montana Broadcasters Association, a trade organization representing commercial and non-commercial radio and television stations in Montana. He began his career in broadcasting at KGVO radio in Missoula, Montana, as an account executive. He has worked in broadcasting for more than 35 years in sales, sales management and station management.
Dewey has served on numerous boards including the MBA board, where he served as the chairman. Dewey has a bachelor’s degree in business administration/marketing from Fresno State University.
Supervisory Correspondent for Montana, the Associated Press
Matt Volz is the supervisory correspondent for the Associated Press news operations in Montana. He has been with the AP for 10 years as an editor and reporter in Mississippi, Alaska and New York before coming to Montana, and he previously worked for small newspapers in Louisiana.
Hotline consulting attorney, Meloy Law Firm
Peter “Mike” Meloy of the Meloy Law Firm in Helena is a veteran Montana attorney, specializing in open public records and access issues. A recipient of the Montana Free Press Award, he was active in drafting the “Right-to-Know” provision of the Montana Constitution, and he has been the Hotline’s retained consulting attorney for more than a decade.
He has been practicing in Helena for more than 45 years, handling a wide range of civil litigation. In 2013, he was honored with the Montana Trial Lawyers Career Achievement Award.