FYi Newsletter - September 2021

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


Upcoming Data Practices Trainings

Open Meeting Law Remote Workshop on September 8

The Data Practices Office will be hosting an Open Meeting Law remote workshop on September 8 that focuses on requirements public bodies must meet when conducting public business, including:

  • An overview of Minnesota's Open Meeting Law requirements;
  • Discussion of common Open Meeting Law questions and issues; and
  • Practical advice on implementing the law.

This workshop will be held remotely on WebEx, and it does not require in-person attendance. The cost to attend this workshop is $125.

Intro to Data Practices Remote Workshop on September 21

The Data Practices Office will be hosting an Intro to Data Practices remote workshop on September 21 that provides an overview about state and local governments' responsibilities under the Data Practices Act, including:

  • Background on a government entity's legal duties related to government data;
  • Advice on the legal requirements related to appropriate access to not public data and data breach investigations and notifications;
  • Help creating or updating customized data practices policies and procedures required by law; and
  • An opportunity to apply your knowledge in hands-on exercises.

This workshop will be held remotely on WebEx, and it does not require in-person attendance. The cost to attend this workshop is $125.

More information about both workshops is available on our website.

Schedule of Upcoming Workshops

Can't make it to one of our September workshops? Don't worry!

We've posted a tentative schedule of all our upcoming workshops through April 2022 on the Data Practices Office website.

Case Law Updates

Smallwood v. Minnesota Department of Human Services, A21-0001 (Minn. App., Aug. 23, 2021)

Appellant Curtis Smallwood brought an action against respondent Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS) in district court for damages under the Data Practices Act (DPA) and Minnesota Health Records Act (MHRA). Smallwood alleged DPA and MHRA violations and damages, claiming that DHS improperly "disclosed" private data about Smallwood that resulted in emotional and economic harm after a hacker accessed data within an email account of a DHS employee. The district court granted DHS's motion to dismiss the matter for failure to state a claim, and Smallwood appealed.

On appeal, the Minnesota Court of Appeals affirmed in part and reversed in part. Specifically, the Court affirmed the dismissal of the MHRA claims, noting the state did not waive its sovereign immunity under the MHRA. However, the Court reversed the district court's dismissal of Smallwood's DPA claim, finding that the complaint alleged a violation and damages that sufficiently met the minimum notice requirements of Minnesota Rule of Civil Procedure 12.02(e).

Further, the Court found that although Smallwood's alleged damages were "generalized" in nature, "Halva controls and requires reversal." Halva v. Minn. State Colls. & Univs., 953 N.W.2d 496 (Minn. 2021). The Court noted that the sparse nature of Smallwood's complaint was similar to the complaint at issue in Halva, which "list[ed] a number of facts that could support a finding of a [DPA] violation." As a result, part of Smallwood's claim should have survived DHS's motion to dismiss.

Advisory Opinion Updates

The Commissioner of Administration has not issued any Advisory Opinions since the last FYi Newsletter.