AG: City broke 1 law, not the other
The city of Dickinson violated one open records law and not another, according to an attorney general's decision released Thursday.
The decision comes after resident William (Jack) Jackson asked whether the city's Human Relations Commission violated the open records and meetings laws by failing to provide open records within a reasonable time and by failing to provide notice of a regularly scheduled meeting to The Dickinson Press, according to the opinion.
The city did not provide a list of commission members and addresses in a reasonable time, Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem decided.
However, the city did post a public meeting notice and provided meeting minutes in a timely manner, which Jackson also alleged the city did not do.
"I'm glad that I at least won one because I believe that the city should not be violating open records laws," Jackson said Thursday. "I believe that it is crucial for our society to follow the laws. Not only are we required to follow the laws as citizens, but the government should be required to follow the laws, too."
The city will comply with the attorney general's opinion, City Attorney Matt Kolling said.
"The opinion states we complied with their requests, and the only violation was that the city did not respond in a timely manner," he said. "We will make sure to respond in a timely manner in the future."
Jackson became concerned in December. He was interested in the on goings of the HRC because members were looking into religious symbols in the city.
"My problem is when I tried to get information from these people, the doors kept closing and that's why I had to employ the open records," Jackson said.
A notice of the meeting in question was properly posted, according to the attorney general.
"It is my opinion that the HRC was not legally required to provide additional notice to The Dickinson Press of the meeting held on Dec.17, 2010," according to Stenehjem's decision.
Jackson says the committee should be under observation "I think they should be open and upfront about it so that we know everything."
The AG's opinion reminds local government that it is required to provide records to any citizen in a timely manner that allows those they govern to participate in the process, Press Publisher Harvey Brock said.
"Government will always work best when it is open and transparent and open to public review."
Dickinson Press staff contributed to this story.