South Dakota newspaper sues House speaker over open files


SIOUX FALLS, SD (AP) – The president of South Dakota House is on trial over his decision not to disclose to a newspaper the names of lawmakers who have called for a special legislative session to consider impeaching the prosecutor general.

The head of Sioux Falls Argus and the South Dakota Newspaper Association filed a lawsuit Wednesday alleging that Republican Representative Spencer Gosch violated state laws on public documents by denying name requests from lawmakers who signed a petition for the extraordinary session. Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg faces arraignment next month over his driving in a car crash that killed a pedestrian last year.

To convene an extraordinary session, the House and Senate had to obtain the support of two-thirds of their members. While the Senate leadership released the names of lawmakers who signed the petition, Gosch declined to release the names of House lawmakers who supported it. He argued that the information is exempt from open archives laws because it falls under an exception that prevents “correspondence” from being made public.

“It is inexcusable for President Gosch to continue withholding this information from the public,” said Cory Myers, director of Argus Leader News.

Gosch recently declined to comment on the case and referred questions to his lawyer, the Sioux Falls Argus leader reported. Gosch’s attorney John Von Wald declined to comment on the lawsuit, saying he did not comment on the pending litigation.

Gosch told Leader Argus in September that the names of lawmakers who voted for the special session were irrelevant to the actual articles of impeachment the House might consider.

The lawsuit asks the Supreme Court not only to require Gosch to publish the names of lawmakers who supported the special session, but also to prevent the legislature from meeting until the dispute is resolved.

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