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Legislative secrecy and sexual harassment, a cogitation

When: Thu, June 14, 2018, 6:00 PM – 7:30 PM CDT

Where: Rondo Community Library, 461 Dale Street North, Saint Paul, MN 55104

Registration: Click Here

Top Secret Minnesota Legislature

Why does the Minnesota Legislature often operate in secret? Recent allegations of sexual harassment by legislators give urgency to the question. The legislature hasn’t subjected itself to the open government laws it has passed to create greater transparency in Minnesota’s cities, counties, school districts and most government agencies. Now many Minnesotans are asking why we are one of just five states where sunshine laws do not apply to legislatures.

Please join us for a conversation about the ramifications, focusing on the sexual harassment cases to illustrate the cost of secrecy and the pros and cons of opening the legislature to greater public scrutiny.

Speakers:

  • Briana Bierschbach, Reporter, Minnesota Public Radio (Moderator)
  • Annastacia Belladonna-Carrera, Executive Director, Common Cause Minnesota
  • Lisa Stratton, Senior Counsel, Gender Justice
  • Stephen Kelley, Senior Fellow, Humphrey School of Public Affairs

Sponsors:

This event is sponsored by the Minnesota Coalition on Government Information, the League of Women Voters-St. Paul, and Common Cause Minnesota.

Principles

Democratic government is possible only if individuals have access to the government information they need in order to hold their government accountable.

Government at all levels has a responsibility to promote public participation by support of open access to all public government information.

Government information, regardless of physical form, must always, to the greatest extent possible, be available to the public. Government information is broadly defined to include all data held by the government including databases, information accumulated from raw data, documents, reports, maps and other publications, and all forms of correspondence.

Creation and preservation of government information that documents governmental operations are fundamental parts of assuring government accountability.

Research and public education about access to and availability of government information are essential to preserve and improve public access.

Activities

To assure the vitality of these principles, MNCOGI carries out or encourages the following activities.

MNCOGI promotes public knowledge of laws and principles regarding open access to government information by:

  • Maintaining and updating a website with links to resources and directions about how to use Minnesota’s law;
  • Hosting a blog for discussion of issues about access to government information; and,
  • Operating a speaker’s bureau to provide public presentations on access to government information.

MNCOGI informs individuals and organizations concerned about open access to government information by

  • Sponsoring “COGI-tations,” a series of presentations by subject matter experts;
  • Promoting and supporting research on these topics; and,
  • Linking with parallel efforts at the federal level that support Minnesota activities.

MNCOGI collaborates with other organizations to enhance participation in the affairs of government, particularly with regard to public access to government information, by

  • Building a coalition of organizations and individuals that promote MNCOGI principles;
  • Critiquing legislation, and,
  • Evaluating government’s compliance with state law and principles of open access.

MNCOGI recognizes a commitment to openness in government and the public right to know through the awarding of the John R. Finnegan Freedom of Information Award on FOI Day, March 16.

MNCOGI seeks grants and conducts other fundraising to increase the visibility of information access issues in the Minnesota community as a whole and in individual communities.

Awards

American Library Association – 2005 Eileen Cooke State and Local Madison Award