Corruption Risk Report Card
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Despite a “good government” image, Minnesota has lagged other states in ethics reform, leaving it with laws that often are weak or poorly enforced. Read more from SII State Reporter Ahndi Fridell.
By Caitlin Ginley
Early last month, lawmakers in Iowa completed work on a new open records statute. Senate File 430 creates the Iowa Public Information Board, a nine-member commission charged with enforcing the state’s open records and meetings laws.
For good government advocates in the Hawkeye State, the new legislation was cause for celebration — sort of.
Indeed, there were smiles all around as Gov. Terry Branstad signed the law on May 3 in the ornate Capitol Building, surrounded by lawmakers and journalists — many of whom spent six years on the effort. And the law is undoubtedly a victory of sorts for open government in the state, where enforcement was spotty at best, divided among several local and state entities. If a citizen’s request for information was denied, the only option was to sue — a time-consuming and costly course of action. Now, the Board can investigate complaints and bring them to court on citizens’ behalf.
It all sounds good — except for the fine print.
State integrity news for Minnesota, from the Associated Press:
The Vikings stadium deal that Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton signed into law Monday involves plenty of public participation, but it also prevents the public from getting a look at the team's finances during their partnership to build the $975 million stadium. One provision would shield "any financial information" from the team from public eyes.
Critics say the blanket protection goes beyond current state law, leaving taxpayers in the dark on one of the state's biggest public works projects. Minnesota law already allows businesses that get state money to avoid disclosing trade secrets, business plans, tax returns and other financial data.
Read the rest of the story at the Associated Press.
State Integrity news for Minnesota from Minnesota Public Radio:
"We are making sure we have not had" enough people in the room to require a public meeting.
-- Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen, quoted in the Star Tribune.
That's a Minnesota senator seemingly proud in proclaiming that the spirit of the Minnesota Open Meeting Law was crushed as negotiations between legislators, Mayor R.T. Rybak, the Vikings, and other interested parties not named Minnesota Taxpayer took place in secrecy before a final bill was unveiled. How it came to be the final bill? Good question.
Read more from MPR News.
State integrity news for Minnesota, from the St. Paul Pioneer Press:
Minnesota lawmakers have approved changes to a bill that would bring more transparency to separation agreements with top local government officials and the investigations that sometimes precede those payouts. "I think (Gov. Mark Dayton) will sign it, given the support," said Rep. Pam Myhra, R-Burnsville.
Myhra authored the legislation after community outrage over a $254,814 separation agreement between Burnsville-Eagan-Savage schools and Tania Z. Chance, former human resources director. School officials revealed little about the reasons for the deal and redacted parts of Chance's agreement.
Read the rest of the story at the St. Paul Pioneer Press.
State Integrity news from Minnesota from Minnesota Public Radio:
The Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board, which monitors political financing and lobbying, struggles to get all the resources and authority it needs from the Legislature. Gary Goldsmith, the board's executive director, says stagnant funding makes it difficult for his staff to do its job effectively.
A new report by the State Integrity Investigation, a study that looked at each state's risk for corruption, underscores Goldsmith's concern: Minnesota scored lower than other states on some questions having to do with the board's ability to pursue all investigations.
Read more from Minnesota Public Radio.