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St. Louis County, Minnesota

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Grade2.pngB-
Budget Y
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Meetings Y
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Elected Officials Y
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Administrative Officials Y
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Permits, zoning P
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Audits Y
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Contracts Y
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Lobbying N
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Public records P
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Local taxes Y
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Transparency grading process

St. Louis County is one of 87 counties in Minnesota.

Website evaluation

Main article: Evaluation of Minnesota county websites

The good

  • The names and contact information of all county commissioners is published.[1]
  • County commissioner board meeting minutes and agendas are published.[2]
  • The current budget is published.[3]
  • Annual audits are published.[4]
  • Information on contracts is available.[5]
  • Tax information is provided.[6]
  • The names and contact information of administrative officials is provided.[7]
  • Contact information for the Public Information Officer is provided but there is nothing about public records requests.[8]
  • Zoning ordinances are posted but building permits are not.[9]

The bad

  • There is no information on building permits and zoning.
  • There is no information on lobbying.

Lobbying

In 2008, St Louis County submitted federal lobbying reports.[10] St. Louis County spent $20,000 between 2006-2010 on lobbying the federal government.[11]

The county retains Mr. Ongaro as a lobbyist for general purposes and John Tuma through a cooperative arrangement with other counties. Each of the formal lobbyists does have a specific contract with the county/counties.

The commissioners themselves state they frequently lobby at the legislature and nationally. Expense for such lobbying efforts is intermingled with other travel expenses. Commissioners state they represent positions for the county that the county has not formally adopted.

The county has spent the following on government sector lobbying in the state from 2005-2009. This includes both contracts with lobbyists and membership in government sector lobbying associations

Year Amount
2009 $141,188
2008 $127,853
2007 $83,221
2006 $79,729
2005 $127,529

Data obtained from Minnesota State Auditor Lobbying Reports

Recording public meetings

County commissioner Keith Nelson has requested a legal opinion concerning the right of an individual associated with a citizen group We Are Watching to record commission meetings and workshops. The group records the meetings and posts the audio and video on their website, which is permitted by the Minnesota Open Meetings Law. Commissioner Nelson stated that the beeping of the recorder was bothersome: “I’ve raised this question because of the disruption that these devices have made … and because these recording snips are being taken out of context and used to make people look bad. I’m not talking about restricting the media … and the public still can get a copy of the [audio] tapes we make. So we wouldn’t be limiting access."[12]

Kevin Skwira-Brown, a spokesman for We Are Watching, claims that the request is aimed at cutting off access to public meetings by the average citizen. “It’s absolutely outrageous that county government would try to restrict citizen access to a county meeting,’’ Skwira-Brown said. “They’re saying if you can’t attend their entire six-hour meeting during a work day, then you can’t have access to what they do. That’s ridiculous."[12]

County Board Chairman Dennis Fink has requested County Attorney Melanie Ford to investigate whether or not the board can ban recording of meetings. Ford has yet to render an opinion.[12]

External links

References