Sunday, May 5, 2013

The Tubby Smith opinion intertwines with Minneapolis cops off duty behavior

The Sunday Star Tribune had a front page fold story which talked about cops and their off duty behavior.  Minneapolis Police is launching an investigation into alleged misconduct.  The article goes on to say there may be "questions about how closely the department monitors the widespread practice of off duty work and whether those jobs conflict" with rules and policies. But who monitor's the supposed watchers, the Minneapolis police administration?

Supposedly, the public, right?  The public was able to find out until 2008, public data, as to how much public employees got who did activity with a private business because of their public position.  But that all changed in 2008 when the Department of Administration did an opinion known as the "Tubby Smith" opinion.

The opinion basically says any kind of recompense or pay that public employees get from private parties who are in a relationship with a private party because of their public job is not public. For decades until 2008 the data was public.

In real terms, what does this mean.  It means a cop who works for someone and who wears the city uniform the amount he makes is not public.  The Director of a division of state agency who oversees an industry, but who on the side consults with the same industry, may be known to his bosses, but the public does not know what goodies or pay the person may get.  I could go on and on.

A coalition of bi-partisan legislators tried to overturn the Department of Administration opinion, but the legislation never came for a vote on the floor because of heavy pressure by law enforcement unions.  It just sat on the floor til adjournment.

So what do we have in Minnesota highlighted by the Star Tribune story today.  We have people who get paid by private interests who have a relationship for recompense or pay because they are a public employee or position they hold in government and may be in collision and competition with the public interest. This is troubling.  With recompense or pay being public data gives the public the ability to gauge what the tenor and depth of the relationship may be.

If the Minneapolis Police cannot do oversight over their off duty officers, the public needs to have the ability to do so with public data that should be available.  That can start with making "remuneration" data public again.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Can you "permit to carry" at St Paul Union Depot without note to Sheriff?

I went to the St Paul Union Depot this past week.  Hung off Door 1 entrance was a big sign with 17 rules plastered on it.

Number 7 of the 17th rule for the St Paul Union Depot, a multi-million dollar rehabilitation/restoration of a historic public building states that members of the public who have "permit to carry" need to do the following "carrying of firearms except as permitted under 609.66 sub.1g(b)"  I looked and said what does that mean?

So I looked up Minnesota State Statute 609.66, subdivision, 1g(b).  The specific section is the following:

(b) Unless a person is otherwise prohibited or restricted by other law to possess a dangerous weapon, this subdivision does not apply to:
(1) licensed peace officers or military personnel who are performing official duties;
(2) persons who carry pistols according to the terms of a permit issued under section 624.714 and who so notify the sheriff or the commissioner of public safety, as appropriate;

This means if you have a permit to carry and are carrying a pistol you have to send a note to Sheriff Bostrom of Ramsey County before you go into the St. Paul Union Depot. Very similar if you wish to do so at the Minnesota Capitol, you would send a note to the Commissioner of Public Safety.

My understanding of the "Permit to Carry" law allows a law-abiding citizen to generally enter a public building with a pistol if they are permitted under the law 624.714.  Of course there are exceptions for schools and court houses (Ramsey County Court House) under judicial order and other situations.

I knew the policy (Rule 7) was wrong.  Many people who are law-abiding could run into possible felony charges because of what the rule stated if they violated it, on the other hand, people would not be able to ascertain their legal rights to permit to carry if the rule was wrong..

I decided to call Ramsey County Sheriff Spokesperson, Randy Gustafson.

I asked Mr. Gustafson if the Sheriff has received any letters from permit to carry holders to comply with the law when they visit the St Paul Union Depot per Minnesota State Statute 609.66, subdivision. 1g(b).  He was surprised by the question it seemed.  He had not heard of the rule for the Depot, but he was aware of the Minnesota Capitol situation.  He indicated he would get back to me.

Since the St Paul Union Depot is owned and operated by Ramsey County I decided to contact them. I eventually made contact with Josh Collins, Communications Manager at Ramsey County Regional Rail Authority

I stated to Mr. Collins that I think your rules in regards to "permit to carry" is wrong for the Union Depot.  It is denying people their legal rights per 624.714 (Permit to Carry law).  Can you tell me why you have the policy of having to send a letter to Sheriff Bostrom?  He stated he would get back to me.

Low and behold, Mr. Gustafson got back to me the following day. The Sheriff's spokesman stated the "Sheriff's office was not involved in crafting or reviewing.....the building rules."  Mr. Gustafson also indicated he made contact with Mr. Collins.

Later on that day, Mr Collins left voice mail stating that they had the "wrong code" on their rules.  It was not their intention to "overly restrict" the public building.  He did admit that the County does not have the authority to implement the notification provision for the St Paul Union Depot.  It was an "innocent mistake."  Possibly by someone taking the sign that was being used at the Court House, he stated.  The signs at the St Paul Union Depot will be changed to reflect what the law is.

Over the years since the "Permit to Carry" law passed I have seen a number of times numerous public buildings with postings which say no firearms, period.  In other words, even though legal to have a permit to carry in a public building you are told you cannot, even though you can.  This just happened recently several months ago with a public library..  Had sign posted which said no firearms.  I said to the head person that it was wrong to post that sign because it causes confusion for the law abiding person who has every legal right to do so per the state statute.  There was no real comment, but the person knew I was right.

No matter what your view is on "permit to carry" laws, I illustrate my experience in this post with a much broader point in mind.

That point is to question policies and rules that you think are not correct. If the rules and policies are contrary to law or your constitutional rights, say something, do something, if not, a good possibility no one will.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Minnesota Supreme Court decides who the public is for hearing----its not you or me

Last week I spoke with Don Gemberling, a volunteer with Minnesota Coalition on Government Information. (MNCOGI)  I said to him I got the legal briefs for the Timberjay v Johnson Controls case which the Minnesota Supreme Court will hear on May 6, 2013. I said I was very much looking forward to attend.  He then stated bad news.  The public is not allowed to attend the hearing.  I reacted, What!  Gemberling said he received a media advisory from the Supreme Court saying the court hearing was to be at Roseville High School, but there was no detail how the public can attend.  He then got the message the hearing is not open to the general public based on correspondence he had with Court personnel.

I thought what the Minnesota Supreme Court stated to Mr. Gemberling was nonsense and illogical.  To keep the public from going to a court hearing.

A principle I strongly believe is the right to an open court principle, or the right of the public to have access and to view their judicial system. Today, the Minnesota Supreme Court is not honoring that principle.

I wanted to go to the Timberjay hearing because of the major issue of importance the case will decide.  Basically the point of discussion is: Whether or not data collected, created, received, and maintained by a private person which is doing a government duty or function comes under the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act.

I decided to call Jeff Shorba, Minnesota State Court Administrator and Dawn Torgerson, Deputy State Court Administrator and find out about this bad policy of not allowing the general public access to attend the hearing.  Left voice mails.  I did get a response from Lissa Finne, Court Information Officer via email indicating that the hearing at Roseville High School is part of the Supreme Court Traveling Oral Argument program.  Ms. Finne did not answer the question I left with Mr. Shorba and Ms. Torgerson, How can the general public and I attend the hearing on May 6th?

The response I got from Ms. Finne after leaving her a message and sending an email was very doublespeak.  She sent me back an email stating the Court is not excluding the public from the hearing.  The email also stated that "members of the public who are unable to attend for personal reasons or because the courtroom (Roseville High School auditorium) is full" can watch it on web cast or online.  But this is where the nonsense took a turn for more nonsense.

I then emailed back and stated how can I as a member of the general public get in line to view the court case in person.  It is not open to the general public when there is no opportunity for the public to stand in line to go to the hearing.  The response as follows:

Dear Mr. Neumeister,

Seating for this argument in the auditorium is reserved for the students, faculty and parties.

Lissa Finne

So what does the statement mean in a previous email I received from Ms. Finne that said: "members of the public who are unable to attend for personal reasons or because the courtroom (Roseville High School auditorium) is full"  Who of the public is she's talking about?  I am willing to stand in line at 6:00AM to get a seat.

In other words, there is no opportunity for the general public to attend the argument hearing. The Minnesota Supreme Court closes access to the general public for a case on "public access" to predesignated public. (students, faculty, and parties) The people who the Minnesota Supreme Court chooses.

After I got the last email from Ms. Finne I decided to try again to see if there was a way for the general public to attend.  I called Jeff Shorba asking that he call me.  He did. I stated my concerns and that at least there could be a first come basis seats for the general public.  He stated basically that this is not his bailiwick.  So I asked who's is it?  He suggested that I speak with Commissioner Rita Coyle DeMeules.  I never knew the Minnesota Supreme Court had a Commish!  I spoke with the Commissioner about my concerns and about how I could attend the hearing and there could be some seats for the general public.  She said she would talk to the Court.  She called back and basically stated the Court said no to general public access to the hearing and that I and the general public can view it via web cast.

A public hearing about public access, but general public cannot attend because the people have been preselected as designated as general public by the Minnesota Supreme Court.

While it is commendable that the Court has chosen to hold this hearing on a public access matter before a segment of the public, the public is ill-served if the Court can pick and choose the individuals who can and cannot attend.

I urge the Court to reconsider it's position, and to allow full public access to this hearing as it does for every oral argument at the Judicial Center.