Our view: Duluth has right to know what happened
So just what was happening at the Thompson Hill rest area in the hour or so before midnight on July 22? Duluthians awoke to shocking news this morning that state Rep. Kerry Gauthier, DFL-Duluth, was under investigation and that information relate...
So just what was happening at the Thompson Hill rest area in the hour or so before midnight on July 22?
Duluthians awoke to shocking news this morning that state Rep. Kerry Gauthier, DFL-Duluth, was under investigation and that information related to the probe was classified as "criminal investigative data." City and state law enforcement officials confirmed that but only that. They refused to divulge any details.
Gauthier refused to talk about it, too. He told the News Tribune's Brandon Stahl, "It's a private matter, and I don't need to talk about it."
But he does.
Gauthier represents parts of central and all of western Duluth in the Minnesota Legislature. His 36,000 or so House District 7B constituents are entitled to an explanation and information. They deserve to know what was happening, how their elected representative was involved and why law enforcement may be treating it as a criminal incident.
If Gauthier was an everyday private citizen perhaps a police investigation could be treated as a private matter. But he's not. He's a public servant, picked by the people with whom he lives to represent them in St. Paul. He carries the responsibility of the public trust. His constituents pay his salary and have every right to know whether they ought to continue to do so.
If Gauthier won't talk, at least not immediately, it seems clear law enforcement could be far more forthcoming.
As Stahl reports, the Minnesota State Patrol and Duluth Police at first flat-out denied a request by the News Tribune for information pertaining to the "suspicious activity" at the rest stop. They refused even though Minnesota law clearly requires certain information on calls made to the police for service be made public. That includes the date and time of a call, the agencies involved, the nature of the request for police, and witnesses to the incident. The Minnesota Government Data Practices Act also states that agencies should release "a brief factual reconstruction of events associated with" a police call.
After the News Tribune informed the agencies what records should be public under state law, some information was released. But only details on the time, date and place of the call were released. All the newspaper -- and the public, by extension -- was told with regard to the reason for the police response was "suspicious activity." That's hardly "a brief factual reconstruction." The State Patrol and the city of Duluth then passed the buck to the other with regard to who should release such a reconstruction.
Something "suspicious" was happening at the Thompson Hill rest area late on the night of July 22, involving, somehow, an elected public official and a leader in our community. The public needs to know about it -- and in a timely manner. Nearly a month already has passed without Gauthier or the authorities coming clean. That has to change.