Monday roundup: A mysterious 1946 death, missing persons, pro-secrecy ruling

  • Blog Post by: James Eli Shiffer
  • June 16, 2014 - 10:30 AM

This blog went into hibernation last week during my vacation on the East Coast with family. Here are some highlights from the past week:

Database helps find the missing: My June 15 column, expanding on an earlier blog post, describes the first publicly accessible nationwide database designed to solve some of the most puzzling and agonizing modern mysteries.

A mission to clear his uncle's name: My June 8 column about Bob Patrin's effort to learn the circumstances of his uncle's mysterious death in 1946. Ever since Bob and I crossed paths in the Minneapolis police records room while I was researching the death of journalist Arthur Kasherman, he has pestered me to write about this. I'm glad he finally wore me down. You can hear the story from Bob himself on the video.

Appeals Court rules for secrecy: The three-judge appellate panel last week ruled that a state-created insurance organization did not have to release its records to the Star Tribune, determining it was not a state agency subject to the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act.

The court's ruling hinged on its interpretation of what Legislature's intended in creating the Minnesota Joint Underwriting Association in 1976. The court reasoned that because the Legislature mandated that the MJUA's meetings must be open to the public, it must be a non-government organization. Meetings of state agencies are already required to be open, so that language would have been "superfluous" unless lawmakers thought the MJUA was a private organization, the court ruled. 

With its decision, the Court of Appeals reversed the ruling of a district judge and rejected the opinion of the state agency that interprets Minnesota's public records law. More significantly, the ruling creates a major obstacle for reporter Brandon Stahl to go beyond what he has already uncovered to hold this organization accountable. Once again, the interests of corporate privacy have won out over public disclosure.

Ruling on MJUA

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