Best Whistle-Blower - 2000
Charles Max Jennings
Like a hand-hewn beam, Charles Max Jennings is both rough-cut and a commodity. He may come off as a crude old fart with an attitude ("You're goddamn right" is one of his favorite phrases), but Jennings is the worst nightmare of a corrupt bureaucracy. In his case, it's the City of Houston Water Production Department, the subject of a 1999 Houston Press investigation. Jennings delights in documenting the wrongdoing of the department, which he chronicles in detailed, tabbed (and amazingly accurate) notebooks to make life easy for reporters and law enforcement staffers. His latest crusade has attracted the attention of the city Office of Inspector General and the FBI, though whether they have the guts to act on the information remains to be seen. Unlike most other whistle-blowers, however, Jennings isn't afraid of being fired, exiled or otherwise retaliated against, and readily identifies himself. "I put my name on every letter I write," he says. "My name is not spelled "Anonymous.' "