Thanks to the reporting of my colleague Jessie Van Berkel, the public finally knows the outlines of why Dakota County fired its longtime community development director: allegations of sexual harassment and discrimination and retaliation, among other problems. For more than two months, the county refused to release any data on the March 3 termination of Mark Ulfers, claiming the decision was not yet final because he would not leave the county's payroll for 60 days. I wrote a column March 29 raising questions about the county's continued silence over an action taken nearly a month earlier.
When May 3 rolled around, the county extended Ulfers' contract, thereby putting off the inevitable for another week. What the county did make public - a two-page letter - is far less than the documentation that the Star Tribune has received in other employee severance cases. Van Berkel reminded the county Wednesday that the law requires data documenting the basis of the action, to which Sara Swenson, director of administration and communication for the Dakota County Community Development Agency, responded:
"Other data documenting the bases for the decision to terminate Mr. Ulfers’ employment with the CDA exist. However, it is the CDA’s position that such additional data remain non-public notwithstanding Mr. Ulfers’ termination under several provisions of the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act. For example, and without limitation, such non-public data include: (i) private personnel data on Mr. Ulfers and other current and former CDA employees; and (ii) data that would identify and reveal confidential sources, as that term is used in Minn. Stat. § 13.43, subdivisions 2(a)(5) and 2(e)."
Other agencies have handled those problems by redacting those sections. Swenson informed Van Berkel that the county would look for additional public data.
Here's the letter: