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One Moment, Please... Looking back while moving forward

Fri, Feb 7th, 2014
Posted in All Commentary

If you visit www.fillmorecountyjournal.com, you’ll see 51 online comments (as of press time) on the commentary I published on Monday, January 20, 2014, titled “One Moment, Please…Taxpayers deserve full disclosure.” And, aside from my commentary, you’ll see online comments in response to other articles relating to similar subject matter.

Obviously, there are strong feelings relating to the issues brought up in that particular commentary, and I want provide a follow up on that developing situation.

Looking Back

As I indicated in my January 20, 2014 commentary, when Kingsland Superintendent John McDonald requested to meet with me to discuss misinformation in our newspaper, I was more than happy to meet and discuss where we could improve in our news coverage.

So, we met on Monday, January 13, 2014, at the Kingsland School District office. At the conclusion of that meeting, I requested copies of the documents he presented in front of me that he used to help explain where we were incorrect in the figures we presented in two articles in December 2013. Since we were talking about proposed bond referendums with scenarios boasting price tags of $7 to $17 million that would be shouldered on the taxpayers of the Kingsland School District, I knew we had to get our facts straight.

And, I believe that if we make mistakes then we need to apologize and set the record straight for the best interest of our readers.

However, he said he couldn’t provide to me copies of all of the documents, which would make it very difficult for me to address the concerns of misinformation with our reporter. And, I couldn’t help but wonder: if I couldn’t have copies of these documents, then who else was denied copies of these documents?

I should mention that all of these documents were dated June 23, 2013, so the information presented before me was roughly seven months old.

When I visited with McDonald in that meeting on Monday, January 13, 2014, I was prepared to walk away with something that could help me address an issue with reporting misinformation. Instead, I walked away with concerns about how much information was being withheld from myself, our reporters and the public.

On Tuesday, January 14, 2014, I received an e-mail including a stripped down version of what I saw in our meeting.

The Documents

Well, I am pleased to report that at 3:17 p.m. on Thursday, January 30, 2014, following an e-mail request to Superintendent John McDonald for all of the documents shared in the Monday, January 13, 2014 meeting, I received all of the documents I requested in that original meeting.

Included with this commentary, above you will find a grid presenting the impact of the proposed bond referendum scenarios as they would impact the taxes of different property types. This grid is derived from the documents that Superintendent John McDonald e-mailed to me on January 30, 2014. If you’d like to see all 10 pages of the original documents that were e-mailed to me, please find this commentary on www.fillmorecountyjournal.com and a link to a PDF will be provided for public access.

I can’t help but wonder how the past several weeks would have transpired had all of these documents dated June 23, 2013, been made extremely accessible to myself, our reporters and the public.

Freedom of Information

OK, I’m really not trying to beat a dead horse, but I also want our readers to understand that I did not take this situation lightly. Back when this situation was developing, I even enlisted the legal advice of Minnesota Newspaper Association attorney Mark Anfinson and a local Fillmore County attorney, and both attorneys separately supported my decision to publish the commentary I published on this issue on Monday, January 20, 2014. To me, making any accusations pertaining to violation of Minnesota Open Meeting Law with respect to access to relevant materials is a big deal. And, that’s why I sought legal advice; a third party perspective.

Ultimately, I’m just attempting to shed light on how our government is supposed to function with respect to the freedom of information.

We are fortunate enough to live in the United States of America, where we have the right to challenge our government to be as transparent as possible. And, the media operates as a watchdog to hold our government accountable. In some countries, government owns, manipulates and even silences the media, which keeps citizens in the dark; creating mistrust and unrest. Yes, we are fortunate to live in a country ruled by democracy.

Moving Forward

I have never taken sides on the issues facing the Kingsland School District and possible ramifications of the proposed bond referendums.

Our job at the Fillmore County Journal is to share news and information as it becomes available. With respect to this issue, my concern has always been about transparency of government. And, that was really my primary focus with the commentary I published on Monday, January 20, 2014.

As far as I am concerned, Superintendent John McDonald has made things right by sending me the documents I originally requested. Now we can make this information available to the public, as it should be.

So, I thank him for that, and I look forward to continually accessible information made available to myself, our reporters and the public.

Click Here to view the original documents in regards to the Kinglsand School District


Your comment submission is also an acknowledgement that this information may be reprinted in other formats such as the newspaper.


2:09:13, Feb 7th 2014

MNKelly says:
Thank you Mr. Sethre for getting us the documents that Kingsland administration should have shared with the public. Atleast someone is looking out for the public.


9:41:36, Feb 8th 2014

Thank you to the Fillmore County Journal for releasing these documents to the public. On behalf of the majoriity of Spring Valley I would like to apologize to Jason Sether and his reporters for the unkind and untrue things the editor of the Tribune has been going around saying. We in Spring Valley are not that kind of people he is one person not an entire town. Thank you for helping our town!