The University of Minnesota Board of Regents is a powerful institution. With tens of millions of taxpayer dollars every year, the regents run an impressive university that is one of Minnesota's greatest public assets.
But the regents aren't above the law, no matter how much Goldie Gopher and Ski U Mah mean to the state.
The board announced that it would interview candidates for the president's job at the U in private -- no names released, no media allowed.
That's a barefaced and flagrant violation of the state's open meetings law.
The reason given is the one that reporters hear frequently at the local government level: Top candidates for leadership jobs want their names kept secret so their current employers won't know they're job-hunting.
Understandable, but too bad. If you're interested in a powerful and well-paying job in government, the public is entitled to know who you are and the press is entitled to report on your background and credentials before important decisions are made.
The regents do raise an interesting point: that the board was created by the Minnesota constitution, isn't a state agency and therefore isn't bound by the open meetings law.
That'll be a good issue to resolve in the courts. We believe it's extraordinarily obvious that the governing body of a public university that exists only because taxpayers like you and me pay the bills is bound to follow state law.
The most appalling aspect of this is how cynically the regents acted. They presumably decided it was worth taking a few days of heat from the media to ignore the law and do whatever they pleased with cozy, private interviews.
--Post-Bulletin of Rochester
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.