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Commissioners call to see Stauber emails

Despite the St. Louis County Board voting overwhelmingly to quell the matter earlier this month, a pair of commissioners on Friday called for Pete Stauber to release the contents of campaign correspondence found in his county email account.

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Pete Stauber

Despite the St. Louis County Board voting overwhelmingly to quell the matter earlier this month, a pair of commissioners on Friday called for Pete Stauber to release the contents of campaign correspondence found in his county email account.

Frank Jewell joined Tom Rukavina in calling for Stauber, the Republican candidate in the 8th Congressional District race, to spare the county further and release his emails with the National Republican Congressional Committee.

"For the good of the county, in the interest of transparency, and out of respect for other county officials, Pete should immediately release the requested emails," Jewell said in a Joe Radinovich campaign news release.

Radinovich is the Democratic-Farmer-Labor candidate in the three-way race, which includes third-party candidate Ray "Skip" Sandman of the Independence Party.

In a statement, Stauber spokesperson Caroline Tarwid said the campaign would abide by the county's decision to not release the emails in question.

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"Pete respects the county’s response to the Dayton agency’s non-bonding opinion," Tarwid said.

Fifteen emails between Stauber and the NRCC were uncovered during a Minneapolis Star Tribune public records request last spring. Stauber is a retired Duluth police officer and county commissioner.

But, an online fact check published Friday says some claims being made about Stauber's emails "run afoul of the facts."

"It appears Stauber may have violated county policy with emails to the NRCC, but saying he 'was caught using county tax dollars to help his congressional campaign' and implying that the email flap makes Stauber another 'corrupt politician' goes too far," wrote FactCheck.org - one of a multitude of national outlets paying attention the the hotly contested 8th District race.

News of Stauber's emails surfaced in a report last month. The county, Stauber and NRCC have refused to share the contents of the emails. The county, through its attorneys office, maintains the emails are private correspondence between Stauber and an individual.

"We proactively reviewed the emails through the lens of our Code of Conduct for Elected Officials Policy and were satisfied that no investigation or further review was warranted," the county said again this week through spokesperson Dana Kazel.

The state Department of Administration opined this week that the county erred by not turning over the contents of Stauber emails during its response to the Star Tribune's public records request. The department said, "correspondence between elected officials and organizations is not meant to be classified as private."

Star Tribune legal counsel has said it may take the case to court.

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"As I predicted, the issue hasn't gone away now that the Minnesota Department of Administration had ruled the emails should be public information," Rukavina said in the Radinovich campaign news release.

With the November election, Rukavina is stepping away from his seat on the county board and District 4 - a massive area, stretching from just north of Duluth Township to Kabetogama; it includes the communities of Lake Vermilion and Ely. Jewell is running against Jim Booth in District 1, which includes much of central Duluth, from Park Point to the airport.

The county administration's position to keep the emails private had been the subject of public debate on the county board twice until the topic was shut down as official business with a vote Sept. 25. Rukavina has been at the center of calls for Stauber to be more transparent.

"Our elected county attorney doesn't agree with me that the emails should be released, nor does the majority of the elected county board," he said in the news release. "So my advice to Commissioner Stauber is this: you don't need the county attorney or county board to get in the middle of this debate. According to our attorney and state law, you can release them on your own. So be a big boy and just do it. Don't make the taxpayers of St. Louis County waste their money defending you in court case that need not happen. What are you hiding, what are you afraid of?"

Said County Administrator Kevin Gray earlier this week, "Our highest priority has always been and continues to be to follow the law."

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