– Grand Prize Winner: Paula Pedene and Doug Williams–
PAULA L. PEDENE, APR, Fellow PRSA holds the Public Relations Society of America’s (PRSA) highest honors including the PR Pro of the Year Award, the Western District Platinum Service Award and three Silver Anvil Awards for Institutional Programs, Reputation Management, and Community Outreach.
Paula Pedene was one of the first Whistleblowers at the Phoenix VA. In 2010, she collaborated with Dr. Sam Foote in exposing funds mismanagement and a hostile work environment. Their allegations were sustained by the Office of the Inspector General. When new leaders arrived, they were suspicious of her and she became mired in conflict. They removed her from her role as a VA Public Affairs Officer, a role where she had performed admirably for 23 years and banished her to the basement library where she checked books in and out, put the daily papers on racks to read, and logged patients onto hospital computers. While in the library, she learned of the waits and delays for veterans seeking care at the Phoenix VA. Once again in collaboration with Dr. Sam Foote and other trusted colleagues, she worked behind the scenes to expose the VA Wait Time Scandal. This time her disclosures ended up at the highest levels of the agency, forcing the resignation of the VA’s Under Secretary for Health and the Secretary of Veterans Affairs. Her case was handled by the Office of Special Counsel, an employee representative Roger French and Attorney Josh Klinger from Minahan, Muther and Klinger PC a federal law firm out of Colorado. Together they were able to win her whistleblower case with an agency settlement.
As part of that settlement, Pedene continues her public relations counsel as a federal employee within the Department of Veterans Affairs, Veterans Health Administration, Office of Communications. Here, she provides national guidance for public relations counsel and strategy that impacts hundreds of thousands of employees and numerous stakeholders. For the most part the agency has worked to support her in her current endeavors and have held up their word in embracing whistleblowers into the fold. However, she still comes under scrutiny from those who are unwelcoming of whistleblowers.
Pedene volunteers her time as the Coordinator of the Phoenix Veterans Day Parade, serves on the board for Honoring America’s Veterans, and is a guest columnist for the Arizona Republic creating “The Veterans Voice Column.”
Pedene is married to William Pedene and they are blessed with two sons. She has a hereditary eye disease which causes tunnel vision and is a disabled Navy Veteran. She attributes her success to a supportive family and her faith.
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DOUG WILLIAMS has a background in politics, media, communications, and government relations. He is also a novelist, playwright, filmmaker, and award-winning screenwriter.
Mr. Williams is a former journalist, editor, and columnist; worked as a press secretary in the U.S. Senate; and served as chief creative writer and senior vice president for public relations and public affairs at a large regional advertising agency. Additionally, he has managed corporate communications, branding, and marketing functions in both the public and private sectors, and provides corporate training in more than 30 disciplines, with a focus on storytelling.
His first screenplay, Black Star Rising, inspired by the life of Texas Congresswoman Barbara Jordan and based on a play he was commissioned to write, was optioned by an independent producer in Los Angeles; earned Best Female Character honor in the nationally known A Feeding Frenzy competition; and was a semi-finalist for the International Screenplay Award for drama. After being detoured in typical Hollywood fashion, it is now back on the market and he has rewritten it as both a play and a film to reflect the current political climate.
His short film, In the Time of Dangerous Men, has been an official selection in multiple film festivals. His latest screenplay, Killing Time, is a thriller about a young woman who inexplicably begins to age and how her search for answers threatens to expose a global conspiracy behind the discovery of a genetic fountain of youth.
His novel Nowhere Man, a political thriller, was published in June 2014, with critics comparing it to House of Cards and Homeland, and he is now writing a new book tentatively titled The Compound. He is also a playwright with four New York credits, and his latest drama, The Boundary, enjoyed a successful and profitable run in Houston during the spring of 2016.
From Book Pipeline: “A shocking and deeply personal narrative from whistleblower Paula Pedene, who exposed blatant administrative oversight that resonated throughout the VA hospital system. The pitch of her then-unpublished work felt cinematic from the first sentence, detailing her struggles in balancing a career, her reputation, and taking a course of action she knew would threaten everything she built for herself and family. When it comes to nonfiction adaptability for film, Veteran’s Day is one that not only has all the necessary elements of a persuasive drama but–far, far more importantly–is a story that needs to be told so that tragedies like this are avoided in the future and those responsible are brought to justice.”
– Finalists (2) –
Famous Baby by Karen Rizzo
The Price of Gold: Choreographing a Gymnastics Dynasty
by Geza Pozsar, with Bill Hayes and Jennifer Thomas
– Semifinalists (10) –
(De)Coded by Lizzie Guest
Disposable Necessities by Neil McGowan
Looking for Garbo by Jon James Miller
The Mentor by Lee Matthew Goldberg
The Swim by Jens F. Colting
The Tank by Brent Hartinger
Vegas Baby by Nicole Stuart