Gov. Walz: Public won't see my full calendars

Gov. Tim Walz says he will not make public his daily calendars, effectively deciding that Minnesotans will only be allowed to see a limited scope of what he’s doing in office.

The first-term Democratic governor’s legal counsel rejected a FOX 9 request made under Minnesota’s Data Practices Act to see his calendars since taking office in January. At the same time, Walz says he will start releasing a more comprehensive daily schedule that will include private meetings along with public events.

“To take the position that the governor is now taking puts us at the rear and not at the forefront in terms of open government across the United States,” said Hamline University Professor David Schultz, who has long followed Minnesota politics. “The state of Minnesota in general -- our government in general -- has backslid dramatically on the issues of transparency and disclosure over the last generation.”

As governor-elect in November, Walz told reporters he would release calendars showing his meeting schedule once he took office.

Instead, Walz’s staff has provided a much more limited view of the governor’s whereabouts during the first five months of his term. A daily email reflects only public events on Walz’s schedule, and there sometimes are none.

In one instance in early April, notice of Walz hosting a reception for the Israeli ambassador at the governor’s residence came not from Walz’s staff, but from a state lawmaker who tweeted a photo of himself with the governor’s cat.

That same week, Walz and Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan took an unannounced tour of U.S. Bank Stadium after crews had installed the basketball court for the Final Four.

The governor’s office took 73 days to respond to the data request for Walz’s calendars, providing dozens of pages of previously released media advisories for events that took place from January through April.

“Calendars are classified as private data,” Deputy General Counsel Emily Parks wrote in an email explaining the denial, pointing to a 1996 opinion in which the state Department of Administration commissioner decided a state agency head’s calendars were not public. 

The opinion says nothing about an governor’s calendars. While often cited by elected officials, it has not been tested in court, Schultz said.

“It means nothing,” Schultz said, “so trotting that out doesn’t really affect anything whatsoever.”

On Sunday night, Walz’s staff began what it said will be a new practice: providing notice of the governor’s private meeting schedule to reporters one day in advance. Monday, Walz met with House Speaker Melissa Hortman, Hennepin County Sheriff Dave Hutchinson, and Attorney General Keith Ellison in three separate meetings, the governor’s schedule indicates.

“Gov. Walz has decided that he will provide more information than legally required under the Data Practices Act,” Parks wrote in her Friday afternoon email. “Going forward, we will be including more information in the daily public schedules.”

The practice follows a similar standard set by former Gov. Mark Dayton, who released his public and private meeting schedule.

A governor’s calendars are considered public records in other states, including Wisconsin. But Minnesota governors of both parties have routinely rejected requests to see full daily calendars.