Against a state agency’s recommendation, St. Louis County again refused on Wednesday to release e-mails sought by the Star Tribune between Pete Stauber, a St. Louis County commissioner and Republican candidate for Congress, and the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC).

Stauber is running in northeastern Minnesota’s Eighth Congressional District against Democrat Joe Radinovich.

“Consistent with St. Louis County’s position on this matter to date, e-mails between an elected official and an individual are private data,” said St. Louis County Administrator Kevin Gray. “Therefore, the requested e-mails will not be released without the consent of one of the parties.”

In a nonbinding advisory opinion signed this week by state Administration Commissioner Matthew Massman, the agency ruled that “If the e-mails are correspondence between County Commissioner Stauber and a representative of the NRCC, the data are public and the county did not respond appropriately to the Star Tribune’s request under Minnesota Statutes Chapter 13.”

Randy Lebedoff, general counsel for the Star Tribune, replied: “I am astonished that public officials would take such a position. I guess we will see them in court.”