Shedding Daylight on Minnesotans’ Access to Government Data
Whether you are an elected official or a concerned citizen who attends public meetings, it’s worth your time to understand this state law
The law: A presumption of opennessWeb posted March 12, 2013
Minnesota Statutes 13.03 states that all government records are public unless the law specifically classifies them otherwise. Public employees or officials must allow anyone to inspect public data without charge and regardless of how it is stored “upon request.” If denied access, inform the person that Section 13.03 requires him/her to cite the specific law that makes the data secret. Keep a copy of Section 13.03 with you and bring your case to supervisors of the government office if you are denied access.
The law does not require you to put a request in writing. An oral request is sufficient. The agency may require you to pay for copying data, and for compiling it, if copies are requested, but the fee must be reasonable (the term is not defined in the law). You can also copy the records yourself. No fee may be charged for simply inspecting records, or for separating public from not public data.
If the agency continues to withhold data, or charges an unreasonable fee, you might want to consult an attorney.
Information on Public Employees: Personnel Data
A public agency cannot legally refuse to give you information simply because it is “personnel data.” The following (and more) information about any public employee (public school teacher, police officer, city manager, state employee) are public data and must be released upon request, according to Minnesota Statutes 13.43: Name, actual gross salary, salary range, actual gross pension, contract fees, the value and nature of employer- paid fringe benefits, the basis for and amount of any added remuneration, including expense reimbursement, job title, job description, education and training background, previous work experience, date of first and last employment, work location, work telephone number, badge number, honors and awards received, payroll time sheets, the existence and status of any complaints or charges against the employee, whether or not the complaint or charge resulted in a disciplinary action, the final disposition of any disciplinary action, the specific reasons for the disciplinary action, data documenting the basis of the action, and the terms of any agreement settling any dispute arising out of the employment relationship or a buyout agreement. However, most other information about individual employees is not public.
Law Enforcement Data: Arrests
The arresting agency is required by law (Minnesota Statutes 13.82) to disclose the following information immediately (they cannot legally delay releasing the information pending filing of charges, notification of relatives, or for any other reason.
The name, age, sex and last known address of any adult (the age and sex of any juvenile) arrested, cited, jailed or held; the time, date and place of the action; any resistance encountered; any pursuit engaged in; whether weapons were used by any party; the charge, warrant or other legal basis for the action; and other information. Keep a copy of Section 13.82 to show law enforcement officers.
Law Enforcement Data: Incident Reports
Law enforcement agencies are required by Minnesota Statutes 13.82 to disclose all of the following information about actions in which the agency was involved. Disclosure must be prompt, and there are very few exceptions; the fact that the matter is under investigation is not an exception.
Date, time, and place of action; agencies, units, and officers participating; whether there was pursuit, resistance or weapons involved; names and addresses of witnesses, victims, and casualties; name and location of health care facility where victims were taken; response or incident report number; whether the parties involved in a traffic accident were wearing seatbelts and the blood alcohol concentration of each driver; and a “brief factual reconstruction of events.” (ICRs are always public.)
Law Enforcement Data: Search and Arrest Warrants
Search warrants, arrest warrants, and documents used to request or support them (such as applications and affidavits) are almost invariably public once filed with the court. Minnesota Rule of Criminal Procedure 33.04 states that warrants and supporting documents “shall be filed with the court,” subject to only two exceptions: (1) Search warrants and related documents need not be filed until after execution of the search or the expiration of 10 days (whichever is earlier). (2) The prosecuting attorney may ask the judge in writing that the documents supporting a request for a warrant not be filed. This may be granted under certain conditions, but if it is, the supporting documents for an arrest warrant must be filed as soon as the arrest warrant has been executed, and the supporting documents for a search warrant must be filed once the criminal proceeding using evidence from the search has been commenced (or as the judge otherwise directs).
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