FYi - March 2017


 MARCH 2017     

Advisory Opinion Update

Team-building exercises and the Open Meeting Law

In Advisory Opinion 16-006, a school board asked whether it might meet in private facilitated discussions designed to, among other goals, “improve trust, relationships, communications, and collaborative problem solving” among board members, without violating the Open Meeting Law. 

The Commissioner determined that as long as the board avoided even incidental discussions specific to matters within its official duties or powers, a quorum of the board could participate in those sessions because the board was not “gathering to discuss, decide, or receive information as a group relating to ‘the official business’ of the governing body.”

Case Law Update

Scheffler v. City of Anoka et al., No. A16-0252 (Minn. Ct. App., Feb. 6, 2017)

In late 2014, Appellant, through counsel, directed data requests to a records manager at the Anoka Police Department and an attorney at a law firm which regularly contracted with the City of Anoka for legal services. Neither the staff that received the request or the attorney were identified on the City’s data practices policy as the Responsible Authority or data practices designee. Appellant’s request(s) for data went unanswered until June 2015, when Appellant requested the data from the designee identified in the City’s policy, after which Appellant received the data in a timely manner. 

Appellant sued the City of Anoka, Anoka County, the City of Coon Rapids, the attorney, and the attorney’s law firm for violation of the Data Practices Act for failing to provide data or provide a reason for its denial, as required in §§ 13.03-04. After Appellant voluntarily dismissed several parties from his Complaint, the district court dismissed the complaint(s) against the attorney and law firm and granted summary judgment in favor of the City of Anoka. 

The Court of Appeals affirmed the ruling and held that under § 13.03, subd. 3 and § 13.04, subd. 3, a person seeking data from a government entity must make his/her request to the government entity’s responsible authority or applicable designee before claiming a violation of the Act for failure to provide data or failure to provide a reason for denial. The court also rejected appellant’s argument that the City violated the Act based on common-law apparent authority principles because there was no evidence that the City intended for other staffers or private contractors to act as Responsible Authority or designee. As the court stated: “The [Act] has its complexities, but nothing in sections 13.03 and 13.04 is ambiguous concerning to whom one must make a data request. They plainly require that data requests be made to a responsible authority or designee.”

Upcoming IPAD Workshops

Registration information will be available on IPAD’s website in the coming weeks.

Law Enforcement Data Workshop – April 26, 2017 (9:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.)

This full-day workshop provides an overview of law enforcement data in Minnesota. Because this is an in-depth, specialized workshop, IPAD recommends that attendees without prior data practices experience first attend IPAD’s Intro workshop.

Personnel Data Workshop – May 24, 2017 (9:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.)

This full-day workshop provides an overview of personnel data in Minnesota. Because this is an in-depth, specialized workshop, IPAD recommends that attendees without prior data practices experience first attend IPAD’s Intro workshop.