EDITOR'S NOTE: An occasional look at promises by government officials and how well they are kept
ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton won't allow inspection of his daily calendar despite saying as a candidate that taxpayers would "have a right to know what I'm doing with my time" and should know who he's meeting with privately.
Dayton told The Associated Press in an interview during his 2010 campaign that he would open his schedule to public view. The AP followed up in December with a formal records request and was told by the administration that "calendar data is considered private data on individuals and as such is not public."
The Democrat's current posture mirrors that of his predecessors who carefully guarded their appointment calendars, citing legal opinions on data privacy and security concerns. All recent governors, including Dayton, have released a self-selected public events schedule that offers an abbreviated look at their day.
The AP and other media organizations pressed then-Gov. Tim Pawlenty's administration for release of his calendar when the Republican was under consideration for vice president in 2008 and again when he was building toward his own White House run. All requests were rebuffed.
During the 2010 campaign, AP asked Dayton if he would take a different approach and make his calendar open to inspection. Dayton responded that schedules for a governor can be fluid, with impromptu meetings that might not make it onto an official docket available later for review.
"But yes, my calendar is a public calendar," he continued. "I'm a public servant and my salary is being paid from the taxpayers of Minnesota, like everyone else in state government. They have a right to know what I'm doing with my time."
The candidate said there was a value in greater transparency. He said people requesting time with the state's leader "ought to know when they're coming in to meet with the governor that not every word they're saying but the fact of the meeting and the fact they're present. That comes with the territory."
Dayton's office was supplied with a transcript as part of a request for access to calendars containing appointments for in-person meetings, telephone calls, speaking engagements and travel excluded from his public events schedule for the first year of his term.
Since denying AP's request, the schedule released by Dayton's office has contained more information about meetings, including those considered closed to media.
"We release a broad picture of the governor's day every day, which is more than previous administrations and most other governors in the country," said Deputy chief of staff Bob Hume. "This is a governor who gives out his home phone number at public events. Governor Dayton is more accessible to Minnesotans than any other governor in memory."
A Minnesota executive branch office that referees disputes over records requests has on several occasions walled off access to calendars of public officials. Those opinions from the Department of Administration have classified schedules as "personnel data" that offer exemptions from data disclosure laws.
The opinions, considered advisory, have involved cabinet-level officials, local government leaders and University of Minnesota personnel. None of them has dealt with elected officials.
Still, the opinions have never been challenged in court so they have tended to carry the force of law and been relied upon by at least four separate administrations.
Mark Anfinson, an attorney who has been on the losing end of those opinions, said permitting inspection of calendars is about transparency and accountability.
"Who's got access to him? Who's he spending his time with? That often converts in the world of public and government affairs to results and actions," Anfinson said. "We all understand that the world of lobbying and influence in government is significantly affected by who has access to whom."
None of Minnesota legislative leaders provides a full rundown of meetings. The Legislature is exempt from most state records laws.
Minnesota isn't alone in its treatment of gubernatorial calendars. Arkansas, Delaware, Massachusetts, Virginia and South Dakota are among the places where an hour-by-hour accounting of the governor's time has been considered off-limits.
In some states, administration officials cite security concerns about revealing a governor's movements even days or months after the fact. In Arkansas, for example, the calendar is considered a "working paper" exempt from open records laws. Next door in Wisconsin, Gov. Scott Walker releases his official monthly calendar that is heavily redacted and released weeks after the month covered has ended.
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)