FYi - November 2018

FYi Newsletter – From the Data Practices Office at the Department of Administration

NOVEMBER 2018     

Advisory Opinion Update

Geospatial Data

In Advisory Opinion 18-012, Metropolitan Emergency Services Board (MESB) asked the Commissioner about the classification of a geospatial dataset that MESB creates and maintains. MESB is a regional joint powers board established by the nine metropolitan counties; the data set covers that region. MESB wanted to publish the dataset to make it more easily accessible to the public. Minnesota Statutes, section 16E.30, subdivision 10, defines “electronic geospatial data,” and Minnesota Statutes, section 466.03, subdivision 21(b) states that the data are presumptively public. Accordingly, the Commissioner opined that the data in MESB’s geospatial dataset are public.

Elected Official Correspondence

In Advisory Opinion 18-013, the Star Tribune asked the Commissioner about the classification of correspondence between a County Commisioner and the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC).  The Commissioner relied on the reasoning of Advisory Opinion Advisory Opinion 10-023 and opined that the County improperly classified the data as private under Minnesota Statutes, section 13.601, subdivision 2. The private classification of section 13.601 is reserved for communications between elected officials and individuals. The NRCC, as an organization, does not meet the definition of "individual" under the Data Practices Act, but is instead properly categorized as a "person" under Minnesota Statutes, section 13.02.  A Kanabec County District Court judge considering the Advisory Opinion subsequently came to the same conclusion as the Commissioner and ordered the County to release the data in question.

Effect of a Subpoena for Educational Data

In Advisory Opinion 18-014, multiple school districts asked whether private educational data could be released pursuant to a subpoena. The Commissioner opined that since Minnesota Statutes, section 13.32, subdivision 3(e), incorporates the FERPA regulations – which allow for disclosure without consent pursuant to subpoena when there has been a reasonable effort to notify the parents – Minnesota allows disclosure in response to a subpoena when those conditions are met.

Licensing Data

In Advisory Opinion 18-015, a member of the public asked the Commissioner about the Professional Educator Licensing and Standards Board’s (PELSB) response to a request for access to additional information regarding the reasons PELSB entered into a Stipulation Agreement and Consent Order with a licensee, due to maltreatment of minors. The detailed data the requester sought related to the nature of the maltreatment. Per Minnesota Statutes section 13.41, subdivision 5, because PELSB and the licensee agreed to resolve the complaint without a public hearing, the only related public data are the “agreement and the specific reasons” for it. The Commissioner agreed with PELSB that the Order itself is “the agreement,” and the factual findings in the stipulation constitute the “specific reasons” for the agreement. 

Temporary Classifications of Data

The Attorney General’s Office recently approved two temporary classifications for form and legality. One temporary classification applies to the City of Rochester related to certain rideshare program data at the city. The second classification applies to SouthWest Transit and certain data related to its SW Prime carpool program.

More information about these temporary classifications is available on our website.