DFL Sues St. Louis County for Release of Stauber emails
The fight to disclose Pete Stauber's emails is now in court. The Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party filed a lawsuit against St. Louis County on Tuesday, asking a judge to grant access to correspondence between Stauber and the National Republ...
The fight to disclose Pete Stauber’s emails is now in court.
The Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party filed a lawsuit against St. Louis County on Tuesday, asking a judge to grant access to correspondence between Stauber and the National Republican Congressional Committee found in his county email account.
Stauber, a county commissioner, is the Republican candidate in the high-profile 8th Congressional District race against Democrat Joe Radinovich and Independence Party candidate Ray “Skip” Sandman.
“The public has the right to know what is in the emails Pete Stauber sent from his taxpayer funded county email account while he was on county time,” said DFL Executive Director Corey Day in a news release announcing the lawsuit. “Transparency and accountability are vital in maintaining trust in government and in our public officials, and thus far, Pete Stauber has fallen far short on both counts.”
In a statement to the News Tribune, the Stauber campaign characterized the lawsuit as “politics.”
“It’s not surprising Joe and his DFL friends are playing politics,” said Stauber spokesperson Caroline Tarwid, “but as we have all along, we leave these decisions up to the county, who already cleared Pete Stauber of any wrongdoing.”
Minneapolis attorneys for the DFL have asked for an expedited hearing Friday, citing the Nov. 6 election and the fact that early votes are already being cast throughout the 8th District. A letter to the court Tuesday said a St. Louis County attorney agreed to an expedited time frame.
“The need for the information is urgent,” the DFL argued in court documents. “The information in question relates to the communications of an elected official who is seeking election to the United States House of Representatives.”
In its lawsuit, the DFL claims the county is in violation of the state’s data practices act. The lawsuit followed last week’s advisory opinion by the Minnesota Department of Administration which said the emails are public and that St. Louis County acted improperly by refusing a request from the Minneapolis Star Tribune to release 15 emails involving the NRCC found in Stauber’s county email account earlier this year. Elected officials are prohibited by county policy from using county funds, equipment, supplies, employees, or facilities in support of their own campaigns.
Several other requests to see the emails have followed, but the county has maintained throughout that the emails between a commissioner and an individual are private.
The county, through spokesperson Dana Kazel, offered little response to the lawsuit, which was served Tuesday morning to a 30-year-old tax analyst in the county auditor’s office, according to an affidavit.
“We are aware of the action. Our response will be shared through the courts. We have no other comment on this pending litigation,” Kazel said.
Neither Stauber, nor the NRCC has show any inclination to share the contents of the emails, and St. Louis County said it will not produce the emails without one or the other’s consent.
In Sunday’s debate on KSTP-TV in the Twin Cities, Stauber called the pursuit of his emails “an opportunity to smear me.” He cited his 23-year law enforcement career as a counterpoint.
“Not one complaint,” Stauber said, referencing a previous public records check into his personnel file with the city of Duluth.
“Stauber could put this entire issue to rest in 10 minutes if he wanted to by voluntarily releasing the emails in question,” Day said. “His continued refusal to do so raises serious flags about their contents, and about his priorities.”
In addition to emails between Stauber and the NRCC, which works to elect Republicans, the DFL requested “all related text messages,” which it called “public government data.”