Tea Party continues…

My only position on this is that I don’t maintain the site, all information was added based on information from the city that this posed no issue.  If the city wants to take down any information they are welcome to.  This is an issue to be resolved between the Tea Party and the City.  I am staying out of it.  The contact information has been there for years, so the fact that this is suddenly an issue is just another Tea Party stunt.  If you don’t like negative campaigning remember that this is coming from my opponents campaign team.

Thank you for your message.

Although the City’s Home Rule Charter does not allow me to render formal legal opinions to members of the public, I can provide you with a general, informal answer to your question.  I have received other inquiries on this issue from citizens and the news media.  I will give you the same information I gave to those folks.

Minn. Stat. §10.60 prohibits a “Web site” from containing a link to a “Weblog or site maintained by a candidate.”  That state law, in section 10.60, subd.1(4), defines “Web site” to be a site maintained on the World Wide Web “that is maintained with public money by an elected or appointed official of a state agency or political subdivision.”  Note that this definition does NOT apply to a site on the World Wide Web maintained with public money by a political subdivision.  Instead, this definition only applies to a site on the World Wide Web maintained with public money “by an elected or appointed official” of a political subdivision.

The City of Rochester website is maintained by public money, but it is not maintained by an elected or appointed official.  It is maintained by the municipal corporation known as the “City of Rochester.”  As such, it is unclear whether the City of Rochester website falls within the definition of “Web site” found in subdivision 1(4).  I checked for any Attorney General Opinions and court cases that address this issue.  I found none.  Thus, there is uncertainty as to whether this law applies to the City’s website.

There is a second area of uncertainty.  The state law allows a Web site to “include biographical information about an elected or appointed official” along with a photograph, Webcasts, and audio and video files “that facilitate access to information or services or inform the public about the duties and obligations of the office.”  The link to Councilmember Wojcik’s website contains such information.  I understand the Councilmember’s website contains other information beyond biographical information, and ward councilmember duties and obligations.  But, the law does not tell us whether the presence of information in addition to biographical and office information defeats this exception.  Again, I checked for Attorney General opinions and court cases for guidance, but found none.

For these reasons, it is not clear whether this state law applies to the City’s policy allowing elected officials to determine how they wish to be contacted by their constituents who access the City maintained web page in order to contact their elected representatives.

Terry Adkins

From: ALAN and CINDY MAVES [mailto:amaves@msn.com]
Sent: Thursday, September 06, 2012 10:51 AM
To: Scherr, Judy; Adkins, Terry; Staver, Randy; Bilderback, Mark
Subject: Election law on Websites

Mr Adkins,

I have been looking on the Election Laws site at the secretary of states office and came across the following.   See high light in yellow.  How does this apply to the Citys policy on allowing Mr Wojcik to link to his campaign page from the cities web site?

Cindy Maves

289-1052

10.60 PUBLIC WEB SITES AND PUBLICATIONS.

Subdivision 1. Definitions. For purposes of this section:

(1) “political subdivision” means a county, statutory or home rule charter city, town, school district, or other municipal corporation, and the Metropolitan Council and a metropolitan or regional agency;

(2) “publication” means a document printed with public money by an elected or appointed official of a state agency or political subdivision that is intended to be distributed publicly outside of the state agency or political subdivision;

(3) “state agency” means an entity in the executive, judicial, or legislative branch of state government; and

(4) “Web site” means a site maintained on the World Wide Web that is available for unrestricted public access and that is maintained with public money by an elected or appointed official of a state agency or political subdivision.

Subd. 2. Purpose of Web site and publications. The purpose of a Web site and a publication must be to provide information about the duties and jurisdiction of a state agency or political subdivision or to facilitate access to public services and information related to the responsibilities or functions of the state agency or political subdivision.

Subd. 3. Prohibitions. (a) A Web site or publication must not include pictures or other materials that tend to attribute the Web site or publication to an individual or group of individuals instead of to a public office, state agency, or political subdivision. A publication must not include the words “with the compliments of” or contain letters of personal greeting that promote an elected or appointed official of a state agency or political subdivision.

(b) A Web site, other than a Web site maintained by a public library or the election-related Web site maintained by the office of the secretary of state or the Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board, may not contain a link to a Weblog or site maintained by a candidate, a political committee, a political party or party unit, a principal campaign committee, or a state committee. Terms used in this paragraph have the meanings given them in chapter 10A, except that “candidate” also includes a candidate for an elected office of a political subdivision.

Subd. 4. Permitted material. (a) Material specified in this subdivision may be included on a Web site or in a publication, but only if the material complies with subdivision

2. This subdivision is not a comprehensive list of material that may be contained on a Web site or in a publication, if the material complies with subdivision 2.

(b) A Web site or publication may include biographical information about an elected or appointed official, a single official photograph of the official, and photographs of the official performing functions related to the office. There is no limitation on photographs, Webcasts, archives of Webcasts, and audio or video files that facilitate access to information or services or inform the public about the duties and obligations of the office or that are intended to promote trade or tourism. A state Web site or publication may include photographs or information involving civic or charitable work done by the governor’s spouse, provided that these activities relate to the functions of the governor’s office.

(c) A Web site or publication may include press releases, proposals, policy positions, and other information directly related to the legal functions, duties, and jurisdiction of a public official or organization.

(d) The election-related Web site maintained by the office of the secretary of state shall provide links to:

(1) the campaign Web site of any candidate for legislative, constitutional, judicial, or federal office who requests or whose campaign committee requests such a link and provides in writing a valid URL address to the office of the secretary of state; and

(2) the Web site of any individual or group advocating for or against or providing neutral information with respect to any ballot question, where the individual or group requests such a link and provides in writing a valid Web site address and valid e-mail address to the office of the secretary of state.

These links must be provided on the election-related Web site maintained by the office of the secretary of state from the opening of filing for the office in question until the business day following the day on which the State Canvassing Board has declared the results of the state general election, or November 30 of the year in which the election has taken place, whichever date is earlier. The link must be activated on the election related Web site maintained by the office of the secretary of state within two business days of receipt of the request from a qualified candidate or committee.

Subd. 5. Other standards. This section does not prohibit a state agency or political subdivision from adopting more restrictive standards for the content of a Web site or publication maintained by the agency or political subdivision.

Subd. 6. Enforcement. Violation of this section is not a crime and is not subject to civil penalty.

History: 2005 c 156 art 2 s 6; 2006 c 242 s 9, 10

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