SD newspaper sues House Speaker for open records

SIOUX FALLS (AP) — The South Dakota House speaker is facing a lawsuit over his decision to withhold from a newspaper the names of lawmakers who petitioned for a special legislative session to consider impeaching the attorney general.

The Sioux Falls Argus Leader and the South Dakota Newspaper Association filed a lawsuit Wednesday alleging that Republican Rep. Spencer Gosch violated state open records laws by refusing requests for the names of lawmakers who signed on to a petition for the special session. Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg is facing potential impeachment next month for his conduct in a car crash that killed a pedestrian last year.

In order to call a special session, both the House and Senate had to gain support from two-thirds of their members. While the Senate leadership has released the names of lawmakers who signed the petition, Gosch has refused to release the names of House lawmakers who supported it. He has argued that information is exempted from open records laws because it falls under an exception that keeps “correspondence” from being released to the public.

“It’s inexcusable for Speaker Gosch to continue hiding this information from the public,” Argus Leader News Director Cory Myers said.

Gosch has recently declined to comment on the matter and referred questions to his attorney, the Sioux Falls Argus Leader reported. Gosch’s attorney John Von Wald declined to comment on the lawsuit, saying he does not comment on pending litigation.

Gosch told the Argus Leader in September that the names of lawmakers who voted for the special session were not relevant to the actual articles of impeachment that the House may consider.

The lawsuit asks the Supreme Court to not only require Gosch to release the names of lawmakers who supported the special session, but stop the Legislature from convening until the litigation is resolved.

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