Thursday, March 20, 2014

Research Q of the Week: Help with the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act (3/20)

Question: A citizen requested copies of some city records, and staff isn't sure whether the information is public data. We've checked with the city attorney, who reviewed the law, but the answer is still unclear. What now?

Answer: Well, one of your city council’s options is to request a free advisory opinion from the Information Policy Analysis Division (IPAD).

The commissioner of the Department of Administration uses IPAD to issue non-binding, advisory opinions on questions about the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act. This includes questions about public access to data, the rights of data subjects, and the classification of data. For example, here’s a recent advisory opinion  addressing the classification of data a city maintained on driving offenses: (IPAD 13-013)

To request an advisory opinion:
  • Send a letter or an email to the Commissioner of Administration, c/o IPAD at 201 Administration Building, 50 Sherburne Ave, St. Paul, MN 55155 or info.ipad@state.mn.us.
  • State that you are requesting an advisory opinion.
  • Explain the facts briefly and state the issue or issues that you want addressed.
  • Provide copies of any related documents or correspondence, including citations to any relevant statutes, rules, or case law.
After receiving the request, IPAD will:
  • Mail you a letter within five business days if it chooses not to issue an advisory opinion.  (The Commissioner has the right to refuse to issue an opinion.)
  • Contact the city if more information is needed.
  • Send the city a confirmation letter if your request is accepted.
For more information about cities and the Data Practices Act, see the LMC information memo, Data Practices: Analyze, Classify and Respond.

This blog post conveys general information. It’s not legal advice. Please check with your city attorney before acting on this information.

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