Editor's Note

The FOI Advocate is a compendium of ideas, edited story excerpts and other materials from a variety of Web sites, as well as original concepts and analysis. When the information comes directly from another source, it will be attributed and a link will be provided whenever possible. The blog relies on the accuracy and integrity of the original sources cited. We will correct errors and inaccuracies when we become aware of them.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Quote of the Week...

From the Argus Leader in South Dakota comes the quote of the week:

South Dakota's Supreme Court will hear oral arguments April 23 in the dispute over whether an invitation list to a governor's pheasant hunt is a public record.

The court's argument schedule, released Thursday, sets the hunt-list case for 11 a.m. April 23.

Oral arguments generally last 50 minutes, with each side getting 20 minutes to present a case, and the party that brought the appeal getting a final 10 minutes for rebuttal.

The case involves the Argus Leader's attempt to get the invitation list to the 2005 pheasant hunt sponsored by Gov. Mike Rounds. The hunt is a long-standing event billed as a way to showcase South Dakota for business prospects.

Jim Hagen, who headed the state Department of Tourism and State Development when the case started, is named as defendant.

The newspaper says the information should be available to the public, which has a right to know what government is doing. The Argus Leader argued in circuit courts that even though private money paid for the hunt, Hagen's agency - a taxpayer-supported state office - helped arrange and coordinate the event.

The basic concern is unchanged as the arguments go to the Supreme Court, says Randell Beck, executive editor of the Argus Leader.

"The over-arching point to our ongoing efforts to disclose the names of those invited to the pheasant hunt boils down to a very simple concept: Why not?'' Beck said. "In all the legal back and forth over this issue, the state has yet to tell us why the people of South Dakota don't deserve to know. That's because there is no good reason. It's pretty simple.''

The state argues that revealing the list of invitees could give other states a look at South Dakota's business recruitment strategy. Rounds used that argument early in the dispute when asked for the list, saying it would "provide economic development agencies of other states or cities with nothing less than a list of businesses which are willing to relocate or expand if given the proper business climate.''

Circuit Judge Max Gors ruled for the state in April. He noted that state law says records required to be kept by an agency are open to the public, but no law requires the invitation list to be kept.

Taken to its logical conclusion, Gors said, the Argus Leader argument "would require state agencies to maintain every scrap of paper generated by state government and to allow public inspection.''

Well, yeah, Judge Gors, that kinda what this whole sunshine law thingie is all about...

No comments: