Duluth mayor's private e-mail leaked to conservative blog
An e-mail from Duluth Mayor Don Ness to members of the News Tribune's editorial board has turned into campaign fodder after it ended up on a conservative blog. And Ness said Wednesday he's upset by the leak of what he considered a private communi...
An e-mail from Duluth Mayor Don Ness to members of the News Tribune's editorial board has turned into campaign fodder after it ended up on a conservative blog. And Ness said Wednesday he's upset by the leak of what he considered a private communication.
The e-mail, sent Friday afternoon to News Tribune Publisher Ken Browall and Editorial Page Editor Chuck Frederick, urged the paper to endorse incumbent 8th District Rep. Jim Oberstar, D-Chisholm, over Republican challenger Chip Cravaack of Lindstrom. On Tuesday, it surfaced on a website -- minnesotademocratsexposed.com.
Frederick said he didn't know who leaked the e-mail. He said he forwarded it Friday to the rest of the editorial board, which includes citizen representatives Bob Hansen and Beth Olson and employee representative JoLissa Kowalik. Frederick said given its content, he felt it was appropriate to share the message with other members of the board.
"It's the board that makes the endorsement, not just Ken and I," he said.
Still, Frederick said the message should not have been leaked.
"I don't know what route the e-mail took, but clearly the mayor's note was not intended for publication or for public consumption."
All members of the board except Olson, who could not be reached for comment on this story, denied forwarding the message to the blog. Hansen, however, said he sent the message to his wife and a peer but indicated to them that it should be kept confidential.
Hansen co-founded the Northern Liberty Alliance, which advocates for more fiscal responsibility and limited government. He also started the first tea party group in Duluth two years ago.
Frederick said he would make no changes to the editorial board, though Hansen and Olson's terms are scheduled to expire in mid-November.
While Ness sent the message using his city e-mail account, he said he considered it private correspondence and was shocked to see it published, much less made into a campaign issue. The mayor said he was "extremely disappointed" and that he considered the recent turn of events "a violation of trust."
Ness said he was moved to write Frederick and Browall on Friday after hearing a rumor that the newspaper was planning to endorse Cravaack. The News Tribune ultimately did endorse Oberstar's Republican opponent on Sunday.
"I wanted to make sure that two colleagues at the newspaper knew my perspective and knew the importance of this race to Duluth, in terms of the projects we are trying to accomplish," Ness said.
In the e-mail, Ness, who worked as Oberstar's campaign manager for several years, argued that Oberstar would bring more money and jobs to the district than Cravaack.
"When you consider," Ness wrote, "that during the next two years it would be Jim Oberstar who would oversee the creation of the next surface transportation re-authorization bill, throwing an honorable man out of office at the very moment that he will author the defining legislation of his life would be nothing short of a cruel travesty -- both to the man himself, but moreso to the state of Minnesota and the people of northern Minnesota."
Ness was also critical of Cravaack, saying he was "well-practiced at tea-party and Karl Rove sound-bites" and suggested the Republican was at least partially to blame for a disruptive debate held on Oct. 18.
"The Congressman attempted to settle his supporters, with a calming motion with his hands," Ness wrote. "Cravaack made no such attempt. Moreover, Cravaack's sound-bite answers seemed to be designed to do just the opposite -- to incite the crowd into rally type responses."
As for the appropriateness of using city e-mail to make a case for Oberstar, Ness contends it was justified.
"This was about a subject that has a tremendous amount of impact on the city of Duluth," he said.
Though the e-mail was sent on a public account, it probably would be considered private communication, said attorney Mark Anfinson, an expert on Minnesota's data practice laws, as it would have been considered confidential communication between an elected official and a constituent.
The Duluth News Tribune and the Herald are both Forum Communications Co. newspapers.