Gov. Mark Dayton is due back in St. Paul sometime Wednesday and looks forward to spending a final Thanksgiving with his family in the Governor's Residence in St. Paul. For his return from Mayo Clinic after two back surgeries and lung complications, and for the improvement in his health that makes it possible, we join other Minnesotans in giving thanks.
But we think the Dayton administration erred in keeping news of the governor's post-surgical complications shielded from Minnesotans for much of four weeks.
In a call from Rochester with reporters Tuesday, the 71-year-old Dayton said that his prolonged hospitalization was no secret, and that he has been able to fulfill the obligations of his office for all but a few brief periods since his first surgery on Oct. 12. With a strong voice, he demonstrated that he's up to speed and conversant on a number of topics of state interest, including the Enbridge pipeline, the Minneapolis homeless encampment and Gov.-elect Tim Walz's preparations to succeed him in January.
But no statement was issued when the DFL governor developed a breathing problem on about Oct. 20 that required him to be on oxygen and limited his mobility for an extended period.
We question Dayton's implication that reporters might have learned the whole story if they had not been distracted by the demands of covering the Nov. 6 election. An editorial writer asked staffers several times about the governor's condition. No mention was made of a lung issue until late last week.
That's more secrecy than is appropriate concerning the well-being of state government's CEO. A governor is entrusted with more influence over more Minnesota lives than any other state official. That trust comes with an obligation to be transparent with and accountable to the public about the governor's status.
Minnesotans know Dayton to be a self-effacing fellow, more given to privacy than most politicians. They also know and admire his dedication to duty despite a number of health problems during two terms. But in failing to disclose until recently the full reason for a nearly six-week hospital stay, the administration took Dayton's bent toward privacy too far. It's a lapse we hope future governors will remember and resolve not to repeat.