FYi - May, 2017


 May 2017     

Advisory Opinion Update

Time Sheet Data Are Public

In Advisory Opinion 17-001, a member of the public asked whether he could have access to a former teacher’s time sheet data for a time period following a public court case. The District denied access to the data, arguing that the data were private personnel data because of the existence of a complaint at the District during the same period. The Commissioner opined that the plain language of Minnesota Statutes, section 13.43, subd. 2, classifies the existence and status of a complaint, as well as time sheet data (or other comparable data used for payroll purposes) as public. The District did not reveal the nature or character of the complaint and therefore, the District would not have been revealing private data by providing the timesheet data to the data requester.

Law Enforcement ICR Data Classification

In Advisory Opinion 17-002, a newspaper asked if a city police department had properly classified various data elements in various police incident reports (ICRs). The Commissioner determined that the city had properly redacted some data elements, improperly withheld others, and in some cases could not make a determination.  The Commissioner noted that law enforcement agencies must exercise their discretion to protect certain identities on a case-by-case basis, and must document those determinations. 

Attorney Client Privilege and the Open Meeting Law

In Advisory Opinion 17-003, a member of the public asked whether a City Council properly closed a meeting pursuant to the attorney-client privilege exception to the Open Meeting Law. The Commissioner could not determine whether the Council made the required statement on the record. He opined that the Council did not comply with the Open Meeting Law when it closed the meeting on the basis of attorney-client privilege because the Council did not show that the Council required absolute confidentiality.

Case Law Update

Webster v. Hennepin County et al., A16-0736 (Minn. Ct. App., April 10, 2017) 

In 2015, an individual made a data request for public data regarding biometric data from Hennepin County. The request was for "all data since January 1, 2013, including emails...This includes, but is not necessarily limited to, emails containing [several keywords], which I request the County conduct both manual individual searches and IT file and email store searches for..." Hennepin County objected to the request as "unreasonable and too burdensome with which to comply," and failed to supply the data. The requestor subsequently initiated a contested case hearing at the Office of Administrative Hearings.

The Court of Appeals affirmed the holding of the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) that the County had violated the Data Practices Act by failing to make the requested data available for inspection. While the Act does not obligate government entities to perform specific searches, it does not allow the government to require a requestor to narrow their search because the amount of responsive data is too large, or too time consuming to produce. The Act does not recognize an exception to the requirement to respond to data requests at "reasonable times and places" on the basis that the request is overly burdensome.

The court overturned the ALJ's determination that the County had violated the Act by failing to establish required procedures, as the County had data practices procedures in place. The Court also overturned the ALJ's determination that the County had failed to arrange its data in "such an arrangement and condition as to make them easily accessible for convenient use," as required by the Act. 

Upcoming IPAD Workshops

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

Law Enforcement Data Workshop - June 14, 2017 (9:00 a.m. - 3:30 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.

Intro to Data Practices Policies and Procedures Workshop - June 28, 2017 (8:45 a.m. - Noon)

This half-day workshop provides an overview of the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act and related policies and procedures required for government entities.