As increasingly important decisions appear to be made behind closed doors in Minnesota government, Gov. Tim Walz has the opportunity to open some of those doors.
He can choose to make his daily calendar of events and meetings public, even though a ruling by an administrative body has deemed such calendars are not considered public documents under one interpretation of the law.
Media organizations requested access to Walz’s daily calendars near the beginning of his administration. On June 4, Walz told a meeting of the Society of Professional Journalists he would release more of his calendars than other governors before him. Walz said: “It’s my hope that we’re able to do more and give more than has ever been given by the governor’s office.”
To the hundreds of journalists gathered in the room, it seemed like he was saying, yes, he would release his calendar.
Then came the memo about a week later from the Deputy General Counsel Emily Parks that calendars are classified as private under Minnesota law. The email was in response to a request by the Star Tribune in April asking for the calendars. A request by Minnesota Public Radio made in February was similarly denied.
Walz announced last Friday that he will release more meetings and events from his calendar but not all of them. His legal counsel said he was providing more information than required by statute.
That is still somewhat debatable, as the administrative ruling calling the calendars private has never been challenged in court.
Walz also told the journalists he regretted the final negotiations on the budget between himself and legislative leaders had to be behind closed doors. He asked journalists in the room to be part of the solution and suggest a way forward.
We have a suggestion consistent with the public’s right to know. Walz should release full details of his calendar.