Ryan Taylor, the Democrat candidate for Agriculture Commissioner, filed an open records complaint against the State Industrial Commission back in April alleging that his campaign had been denied access to meeting minutes for the commission for more than two months.
Today Attorney General – who, ironically enough, is a member of the NDIC – ruled in favor of Taylor’s complaint, finding that open records laws were broken.
You can read the full opinion below.
The excuse for the two month delay in disseminating records is that the meeting minutes have to be reviewed to ensure they don’t contain confidential information. The request from Taylor’s campaign turned up 2,500 pages worth of minutes, all of which had to be reviewed.
Since the State Industrial Commission has only two staffers, that apparently took two months.
Still, Stenehjem didn’t find that excuse adequate. And, really, you have to wonder why confidential information would be included in meeting minutes, which many state agencies post right on their websites shortly after the actual meetings take place.
Maybe a better solution would be to post all meeting minutes, ensuring before each posting that no confidential information exists? That would mean no request for minutes would be necessary in the future.
Regardless, there’s no excuse for any public request for information to be delayed months. Yet, again and again, requests are delayed for months when state agencies are either slow to respond or improperly deny requests forcing citizens to request an opinion, a process which itself takes months to conclude (as this one did).
At some point, maybe it’s time to consider putting some teeth in the law for state agencies that violate open records laws? Because as it stands now, the worse that happens is a finger-wagging from the Attorney General and maybe a negative headline or two.