Mallard takes off

A male Mallard takes off from the horse trail at Bette Davis Park in L.A. adjacent to Glendale as it heads into the L.A. River on Tuesday, April 19, 2011. A variety of birds can be spotted along the L.A. river through Burbank and Glendale. (Raul Roa/Staff Photographer) (May 7, 2012)

The Glendale News-Press collected one first-place and three second-place awards Saturday in the California Newspaper Publishers Assn.'s annual Better Newspaper Contest. The awards, presented in San Jose during a meeting of the nonprofit trade association, were among 16 collected on behalf of Times Community North by Editor Dan Evans.

Former staff writer Melanie Hicken captured first place for her 2011 coverage of local government. Hicken reported on a tie between renovations at then-City Councilman John Drayman's condominium and Advanced Development & Investment, Inc., at a time when the firm was alleged to have bilked the city out of millions of tax dollars.

A photograph of a mallard taking off in flight, shot by News-Press photographer and part-time birder Raul Roa, won second place in the art/nature category of the newspaper contest.

Among the awards Evans brought home was a second place for Best Columns for his "Stop the Presses" column. In it, Evans wrote about questionable bonuses given to Burbank city employees and the reluctance of City Hall to provide the newspaper the names of those who received bonuses and the amounts they were given.

Staff writer Megan O'Neil was awarded second place for her feature story on a Beverly Hills woman struggling to make ends meet. In hopes of improving her financial situation, Austeene Cooper was disputing a family trust set up for descendants of one Glendale's founding fathers.