Open Standard Media Player version 1.3
DULUTH-Noticeably absent from Friday's special legislative session was Rep. Kerry Gauthier (DFL-Duluth) who chose not to attend after weeks of media coverage on his sex scandal.
But the Chair of the Minnesota House Subcommittee on "data practices", Rep. Peggy Scott (R-Andover), is still keeping the case and its media coverage in focus.
This week Rep. Scott sent a letter to the Duluth Police Department accusing them of holding back information on Gauthier after a request made by a reporter.
Her investigation comes after an article was published in the Duluth News Tribune last Friday. It was titled "Authorities: No Conspiracy in Withholding Public Records".
"There were news reports where the police were quoted saying this was a high profile case and we treat it differently. That's what brought our attention to the matter in the first place," Rep. Scott said during a phone interview on Friday.
Duluth Police Chief Gordon Ramsay, however, said Friday's updated story titled "Duluth PD data handling under scrutiny" misrepresented the situation.
"This was driven by the city attorney [Gunnar Johnson] who said 'this is not public data'," Ramsay said.
"It was completely left out of that story. It led the reader to believe that there was some type of cover–up on the part of the police department. And that couldn't be further from the truth," Ramsay said.
He concedes that the department's Public Information Officer, Jim Hansen, did not have the ability to search for to police reports with a protected status.
That is a violation under data practices law but Ramsay said the issue has since been corrected.
It would not, however, have changed what information was accessible to the public, Ramsay said.
"This was a sexual assault investigation. We're not going to rush these for the sake of getting it out to the public," Ramsay said.
But what worries Rep. Scott is the idea of a "high profile" category for certain people; in this case Kerry Gauthier.
Chief Ramsay said the distinction means nothing about what information can be released - it only means the case might require more investigation.
There is also another theory circulating the department.
"There's no doubt this is politically motivated," Ramsay said.
The Republican representative said she disagrees.
"I would be doing this if this was anybody else. This is not a political anything," Rep. Scott said.
The subcommittee is requesting answers to a number of different questions. The department plans to reply in full.
Ramsay said the Duluth News Tribune will run an editorial written by him on Monday.
The newspaper staff – including reporter Brandon Stahl - did not reply to messages asking for comment.