The Potluck

Walz faces criticism for slow response to public records request

By: - November 10, 2021 2:57 pm

Gov. Tim Walz visited a Maplewood elementary school on Oct. 6, 2021 to learn about school district efforts to mitigate COVID-19 infections. Photo by Ricardo Lopez/Minnesota Reformer

A public-records advocacy group on Wednesday said it has repeatedly asked the administration of Gov. Tim Walz for emails from a non-public-facing email address used by the governor but received no response.

Public Record Media, a nonprofit group, published requests it sent in May asking for correspondence about the state’s response to the civil unrest caused by George Floyd’s murder, as well as the subsequent trial of convicted former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. The group held a news conference on the matter, as well as others, on Wednesday morning, saying it had not so far heard from Walz about its request.

Matt Ehling, executive director for the nonprofit, said in an interview that his organization requested emails from the governor’s official email account. Their request separately asks for correspondence from the address [email protected] and asked the administration to confirm it is preserving data from that account.

A spokeswoman from the governor’s office said that is the only email address the governor uses in his official capacity.

“The governor has one state email address, it is secure, and we have always searched that account in response to data requests for email to and from the governor,” Walz spokeswoman, Claire Lancaster, said. “In accordance with public records law, we have shared tens of thousands of pages of communications from our office, including emails to and from the Governor’s account, and will continue to do so.”

Lancaster said the governor’s email does not follow the typical format for state employees — “first name” period “last name” — which could make it impractical for the governor to do his work.

There is a [email protected] email address but it is not monitored, and people who contact that address are encouraged by an automated response to submit comments to an online forum.

State Rep. Peggy Scott, R-Andover, seized on the group’s news conference to demand transparency from the Walz administration.

“I hope this Data Practices Act request is quickly fulfilled and all of the governor’s correspondence, whether it be from widely known or internal accounts, is included,” Scott said in a statement.

Legislators like Scott, however, are not required to provide similar data to the public. The Legislature is exempt from the state’s public records law.

*This story has been updated for clarity to reflect the governor uses one email for official business.

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Ricardo Lopez
Ricardo Lopez

Ricardo Lopez is the senior political reporter for the Reformer. Ricardo is not new to Minnesota politics, previously reporting on the Dayton administration and statehouse for The Star Tribune from 2014 to 2017, and the Republican National Convention in 2016. Previously, he was a staff writer at The Los Angeles Times covering the California economy. He's a Las Vegas native who has adopted Minnesota as his home state. In his spare time, he likes to run, cook and volunteer with Save-a-Bull, a Minneapolis dog rescue group.