Hot off the press, in today’s Beagle.

Note how the attorney representing the City tries to say it’s political! Oh, give me a break, both SoS candidates Kiffmeyer and Ritchie said it was beyond the pale!

State official denounces City Hall actions
Mike Longaecker
The Republican Eagle – 10/11/2006

In a critical analysis of City Hall procedure, Attorney General Mike Hatchâ??s office said Friday that the city of Red Wing had no authority to collect background data on City Council candidates.

In addition, the latest opinion on the matter found that information collected by the city on candidates must be made public.

The report, issued by Chief Deputy Attorney General Kristine Eiden, is condemns measures taken by the city in July during the filing period for council candidates.

â??We are aware of no authorized program,â? Eiden wrote, â??under which it would be necessary or appropriate for city officials to delve into the backgrounds of persons seeking election to city offices for purposes of obtaining information that would reflect negatively on their eligibility or qualifications for office.â?

Her analysis takes a converse approach from a Sept. 27 report, in which a Dakota County official stated he could find no laws prohibiting city officials from asking candidates to sign release forms.

But that report, issued by Dakota County Attorney Chief Deputy Phillip Prokopowicz, also stated there was no law requiring candidates to sign release forms.

The drill

Candidates were asked â?? some said required â?? to sign a release because, as the form stated, â??I want to be considered for employment or volunteer service … .â? That document was supplemental to the affidavit of candidacy mandated by law. The authorization form â?? amended days later in a less-binding second draft â?? allowed the city to perform criminal, courts, driving and credit checks.

Public domain

According to Eidenâ??s opinion, that data can be made public. Government data is presumptively public under state statutes, she wrote, unless itâ??s classified as private under another law.

â??We are unable to identify any other applicable statutory classification because we are not aware of any source of authority for collection of criminal history data in the circumstances given,â? Eiden wrote.

Michael Waldspurger, an attorney for the city, said he disagrees â??very sharplyâ? with the opinion, saying it is inconsistent with a July opinion issued by Hatchâ??s office on a similar matter in Rochester.

Political undertones?

Fridayâ??s four-page opinion was filed in response to a request from Waldspurger and Kimberly Sobieck, who represent the city through a Minneapolis law firm. The Red Wing Republican Eagle back in July asked the city to release the background information, which prompted the attorneys to seek a formal opinion on whether data on candidates for public office is private.

Waldspurger also wondered whether political motivations may have played a part.

Hatch is locked in a close gubernatorial race with Gov. Tim Pawlenty.

Itâ??s unusual, Waldspurger said, for such sweeping analysis when a specific legal question is posed.

â??One has to question when or why they decided to go out on that,â? he said of the criticism lain on the background checks. â??They usually donâ??t stray.â?

In the report, Eiden said candidates for public office canâ??t be reasonably viewed as applicants for employment. Election candidates donâ??t apply to â?? nor are they chosen by â?? city officials acting as an â??appointing authority,â? she stated.

â??They are instead elected by the voters, and all persons who meet basic qualifications specified … are eligible to seek election,â? Eiden wrote.

Waldspurger said he hadnâ??t yet conferred with city officials on the opinion and couldnâ??t comment on the cityâ??s position. Council Administrator Kay Kuhlmann didnâ??t return a message seeking comment on Tuesday.

For former council candidate Carol Overland, the opinion is â??very validating.â?

She opposed the background checks and filed an election law complaint against the city in July.

Though Overland, an advocacy attorney, said she was shocked that the attorney general called for disclosure of the data, she welcomed the opinion and applauded the critical tack taken.

â??Itâ??s just what Iâ??ve been saying all along,â? she said.


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