The Republican chair of the House Data Practices Subcommittee is questioning whether the Duluth police department tried to shield Rep. Kerry Gauthier from bad press after he was caught at a rest stop with a 17-year-old boy.
Despite repeated inquiries from local media, information about the incident was kept under wraps and classified as “high profile…separate and apart from other data,” subcommittee chair Rep. Peggy Scott, R-Andover, wrote in a letter to the department this week.
“This is highly inappropriate, and a clear violation of the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act,” the letter continues. “By restricting access to public data related the incidents involving ‘high profile’ individuals, the Duluth Police Department has created two sets of rules for handling public data...The actions and statements of your department beg for clarification.”
Gauthier was not charged with any crime for engaging in oral sex with the teen at a highway rest stop. The age of consent in Minnestoa is 16. He nevertheless faced a firestorm of criticism for his behavior and announced earlier this week that he would not seek reelection.
Scott said she has spoken by phone with Duluth Police Chief Gordon Ramsay, “and we’re trying to come to an understanding on how they’re handing the data there.” Once the subcommittee has the information she requested, Scott said members might make recommendations to the department about how it should handle future high-profile cases.
The Gauthier investigation, she said, should have been treated no differently than any other public sex incident on the police blotter.
“Our concern is that all data that is public should be treated the same,” Scott said. “Incident data is public data, and that should have been made public.”
Would the Republican-led subcommittee be conducting probe if the incident data had involved a Republican representative?
“I’m just doing what comes under the purview of the data practices subcommittee,” Scott said. “If I see something that is a violation of that, then that’s my duty as a legislator to look into it….We’re just trying to operate on a factual basis here and make information that’s supposed to be public, public.”