Agency opinion: Stauber’s county emails should be public

Emails transmitted through a government account between St. Louis County Commissioner Pete Stauber and a Republican campaign group should be public, a state agency has advised after the Star Tribune petitioned for access to the congressional candidate’s correspondence.

The advisory opinion issued Tuesday involves the county’s refusal to supply 15 emails Stauber sent to or received from the National Republican Congressional Committee using his county email. Stauber is the Republican nominee in a hotly contested race for an open seat in northern Minnesota’s 8th District, which Democratic nominee Joe Radinovich is trying to keep in his party’s hands.

In the opinion, Minnesota Department of Administration Commissioner Matt Massman said the county was wrong to withhold the emails. County lawyers had argued the emails were covered by an exception that makes correspondence between government officials and individuals.

Massman’s opinion, which isn’t considered legally binding, said “any correspondence between Commissioner Stauber and a party that communicates on behalf of the NRCC is “presumptively public” because the entity differs from constituents who would be afforded the protection.

Massman said in his opinion that he had not seen the emails in question.

A message left with the county’s administration about the decision were not immediately returned. Stauber’s campaign spokeswoman Caroline Tarwid said Stauber is focused on “meeting and visiting with as many voters as he can” and argued Radinovich was behind “yet another desperate smear.” Tarwid didn’t answer a question about whether Stauber would turn over the emails or defer to the county.

The Star Tribune first requested the emails in March.

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