Monday, June 13, 2011

Governor Dayton and the Free Lawyer

It is not unusual for a lawyer to do pro bono work for government.  The classic example, lawyers representing poor defendants in the criminal system. Per US Constitution and our State Constitution, poor people have a right to a lawyer.  Lawyers do so many hours of pro bono work as requirement for licensing or their law firm.

In the case of David Lillehaug, it's a calling as citizen and being asked by the Governor my impression is.  I can understand that. I have given many hours free for voluntary public service, (not a lawyer) maybe not at the request of anyone, but just being a citizen.  There is a difference though between myself and Mr. Lillehaug, he is a lawyer and he is formally serving the Governor as Special Counsel.

Being Special Counsel/lawyer on budget shutdown matters as described in the media and press release bring him into the arena of the public. His role then concerns the public and is of interest to the public.

I give credit to the Governor for issuing the press release announcing his appointment.  It is a transparent thing to do.  But the accountability issue needs to be addressed.

When a person or a private entity does something with or for government their is usually some type of agreement, contract, memo of understanding, or some documentation which outlines their role whether or not it is free or by pay.  Is there one for Mr. Lillehaug?

When a government action such as a government shutdown takes place there is a lot of government data collected. A lot of this data is public.  Will the data created by Mr. Lillehaug under the auspices of serving the Governor and his office be defined as government data under the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act?

Important questions, it gives the public insight as to what the Governor will do, it gives the public the opportunity to see how the Governor performs his job with the Special Counsel on the issue of the budget shutdown.  It gives the public the ability to judge the performance of their Governor.

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