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Holwegner Refuses to Give Press Ravnsborg Impeachment Investigation Files, Tells Public to Quit Pestering Him to Do His Job

On Monday, the House Select Committee on impeachment recommended that the House not impeach killer Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg. The committee produced a 22-page report that was supposed to be published along with the full investigation file produced by the Department of Public Safety and the North Dakota cops who investigated the fatal car crash in which Ravnsborg killed Joe Boever. The committee voted to publish that file Monday night.

Strangely, we still can’t find these vitally important files on the Legislature’s website. Legislative Research Council director Reed Holwegner told the impeachment committee Monday night that LRC would post the impeachment report and investigate file on the LRC’s home page, but they aren’t there yet. Just finding the impeachment committee’s documents is a chore. The Legislative Research Council’s home page has links to upcoming meetings, this year’s session, and last November’s Special Session on redistricting, but it has no direct links to the impeachment proceedings that began with a second Special Session last November. To find the impeachment proceedings, one has to follow an unmarked trail of clicks (I give directions here based on my desktop view):

  1. Click the hamburger menu button (three horizontal bars) at the upper right.
  2. In the navigation menu that opens at the left (yeah, you push a button on the right and get a menu that slides in from the left—whose bad design was that?), click Session.
  3. In the options that unroll, click Archive.
  4. In the Session page that appears, find “2021 Second Special Session.” No, it’s not labeled “Impeachment” or any such transparent title. You have to know that impeachment formally started last year and that it was the Second Special Session, not the First. To the right of that label, click Committees.
  5. The Committees page does not have the word “Impeachment.” Click on House Select Committee on Investigation. (No, the House couldn’t even name its committee on impeachment clearly.)
  6. Now after these five clicks, we should be able to find the impeachment report and investigation file, which the House Select Committee on Investigation has directed be released, under two tabs, Minutes & Audio and Documents.
  7. But now after six clicks, you still won’t see the word “impeachment” to let you know you’re in the right place. And as of this morning, you still won’t see the report and investigative file that the impeachment committee directed be released 34 hours ago.

Reporter Joe Sneve managed to snag a copy of the do-not-impeach report on Monday night and post it to Google Drive. But when he tried to get a copy of the investigation file from the Legislative Research Council, director Reed Holwegner refused to share these public documents and said it could be days before LRC follows the committee’s direction. Holwegner blames the delay on us:

“When we stop being pestered by legislators and the public,” Legislative Research Council Director Reed Holwegner responded to an inquiry by the Argus Leader regarding when more than 70 materials that have been reviewed by the House Select Committee on Investigation prior to issuing a report recommending Ravnsborg not be impeached Monday.

…Holwegner said it could be “days” before the materials, which include crash scene photographs, cellphone forensics reports and video interrogations of Ravnsborg, are available for public review. And he refused to accommodate a request from the Argus Leader to have the materials placed on flash drive [Joe Sneve, “Jason Ravnsborg Impeachment, Investigation Files Remain Hidden from Public Inspection for Now,” Sioux Falls Argus Leader, 2022.03.29].

If we can’t impeach Jason Ravnsborg, can we at least fire Reed Holwegner for being a lazy jerk? How dare the director of the Legislative Research Council deem it “pestering” for members of the public to request public documents? How dare the LRC director prevent members of the House from obtaining vitally important documents that they need to analyze the committee’s do-not-impeach recommendation and weigh the historic decision they face on April 12, when the House convenes to discuss impeachment?

We’re not talking about an overwhelming technological challenge. The LRC regularly posts bills, amendments, roll call votes, committee agendas and minutes, and House and Senate calendars and journals the same day they are completed. The report could have been on the LRC website within minutes of the committee’s vote to release it.

To demonstrate, I paused Star Trek last night and replicated the work involved in posting the do-not-impeach report. Steps:

  1. Get the file (in my case, download a copy of Joe Sneve’s PDF to my phone; in LRC’s case, already done, since LRC typed up the report on their computers; just open Word, hit Print, and print as PDF).
  2. Open Google Drive and upload my own copy to my files.
  3. Change Share options from the private default to “Anyone on the Internet with this link can view.”
  4. Copy the sharable link and paste it to Twitter and whatever pages you control where you want the public to access the document, and give it a transparent title. The committee still fell down here, titling its report “House Select Committee’s Majority Report and Recommendations”, still studiously avoiding the I-word. Work the Google juice; label the link, “Impeachment Report: Recommending Against Impeaching Jason Ravnsborg, Attorney General.”
  5. As a bonus, embed the file for viewing directly on the page, which in Google Drive takes fewer clicks than finding the impeachment committee documents on the LRC webpage:

There—five minutes of clicking from my couch, on my phone, with no staff and no Q powers.

It’s not just the report and investigation file that the LRC is hiding. Under the impeachment committee’s Minutes & Audio, the LRC lists ten meetings, from November 10, 2021, through March 28, 2022. All meetings have links to the SDPB audio recording of the proceedings. However, the only meeting with minutes is the November 10 meeting. While the LRC usually has committee meeting minutes up in PDF and text form the same day the meetings happen, the impeachment committee minutes remain unpublished. Regular committee meetings during Session can include lengthy amendments and complicated lists of motions; the impeachment minutes should all be brief, since much of the action has taken place in executive session. The longer public hearings, consisting of open testimony from investigators and prosecutors, took place weeks ago and could already have been summarized and posted.

Director Holwegner cannot excuse the LRC’s failure to timely and transparently publish impeachment documents by blaming the public, press, and legislators for “pestering” him. Posting the committee report published Monday is easy—I just did it again, before breakfast. Posting the investigation file, which has been in LRC’s hands since September and which has already been redacted for committee use and eventual public review, may take more time, but the documents could have been prestaged, locked down and password protected, ready to publish the moment the impeachment committee formally ordered their publication.

But whatever the technical requirements, the publication of these important impeachment documents is director Holwegner’s job. If you don’t like people “pestering” you to do your job, you can easily escape that pestering by doing your job. Give Sneve the flash drive. Send all journalists copies of the report and redacted investigation file, and let’s see who can publish them first.

16 Comments

  1. grudznick 2022-03-30 07:13

    I am told it is well known in the lobbies that the council of research for the legislatures is lazy and inept. This Mr. Holwegner more so than most. He is but a puppet controlled by Messrs. Haugaard and Jensen.

  2. Dicta 2022-03-30 08:16

    That pestering is a feature, not a bug, of the system, you self important git. Do your job.

  3. Nick Nemec 2022-03-30 08:42

    At the end of the committee meeting Monday night Mr Holwegner announced the investigation files would be posted on the LRC website and implied, or at least I understood him to imply, they would be posted by the next morning with a direct link on the front page of the LRC website.

    Through this entire ordeal postings have been hard to find or extremely slow. It was reported in the press that one committee meeting early on would be held on a Monday and yet the official posting happened sometime between 10am and 11am the day of the meeting. Shortly before the posting I went to Speaker Gosch’s office and asked him when the meeting was, he said it was that day. I reminded him of the legislative rule requiring committee meetings be posted two legislative days before the meeting. He kicked me out of his office but the meeting was posted later that hour.

    This entire process has been slow walked toward its preordained conclusion from the very beginning with little concern for Joe Boever’s family or the general public. It was the understanding of everyone involved in or watching the process that all the investigation files (except redacted personal information) would be released as soon as the report was issued. This stuff could have been loaded in a password protected file months ago and published on the LRC website with a few keystrokes within a minute or two of the committee voting to approve its release. A good administrator would have anticipated this and prepared for it.

    The LRC is broken and legislative leaders don’t care.

  4. John C 2022-03-30 09:31

    Holwegner is horrible all around and has created a toxic work environment. He is the reason why LRC staff keep leaving. There has been significant turnover since he started.

  5. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2022-03-30 09:46

    Nick, thanks for that on-the-spot view. LRC used to work better than this, didn’t it?

  6. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2022-03-30 09:48

    Dicta, yes, feature not a bug. One of the LRC’s duties is to support public education and participation in civic affairs. If Director Holwegner feels pestered by public interest, he should work elsewhere.

    Hire me, LRC—I’ll put information online faster than the public can keep up. And I can do it from my couch while watching Star Trek.

  7. Dicta 2022-03-30 11:22

    I would do my job if people stopped asking me to do my job.

    And people will believe it.

  8. No more 2022-03-30 12:01

    This white collar bully pontificates to staff “cast no shadow”.

  9. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2022-03-30 14:15

    Toxic work environment? Staff turnover? Hmmm… maybe when Holwegner refers to the public “pestering” him, he’s actually signaling frustration with how hard it is for him to keep up with regular office tasks when he keeps losing good people.

    My experience with other LRC staff has been that they are usually willing to help any member of the public with a request.

  10. Mark Anderson 2022-03-30 16:19

    Is the quote “reverence for open government” from Pat Powers really a Snidely Whiplash remark? Don’t all Republicans love operating in secret, with the doors locked and windows closed. Governing and sex are the same in the dark and both can be moneymaking too. A benevolent deception, integrity be damned, full speed ahead.

  11. Arlo Blundt 2022-03-30 16:40

    Well..back in the day, when the LRC had an excellent reputation as open and accessible to the public, Rueban Bezpaletz would have had this report available. The LRC wasn’t always run by “lazy jerks” empowered by their position.

  12. DaveFN 2022-03-30 20:38

    As far as I’m concerned, Ravnsborg has been ” in office” ever since January 5, 2019.

    The “not in office when out of his literal office and on the highway” defense is a deliberately tendentious dodge.

  13. Arlo Blundt 2022-03-30 22:02

    DaveFN –you are correct…elected officials are “on duty” and “in Office” 24 hours per day, 365 days a year. Their responsibilities aren’t confined to certain hours as they are always “on the clock.”

  14. DaveFN 2022-03-30 22:56

    The new “out of office” and/or “in office” defense is hogwash either way. Ravnsborg has officially been “in office” continuously ever since he formally assumed the office of AG. If not, he has been nothing but negligent of office.

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