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Cities should be aware of two new laws that change how data is managed and classified.
(Published Jul 11, 2012)
The 2012 Legislature passed two significant bills that change the way cities will manage government data.
Omnibus data practices bill
Although it received far less attention than legislation relating to public employee settlement agreements discussed below, the omnibus data practices bill, Chapter 290 (SF 1143) will likely have a greater impact on the day-to-day operations of cities.
Cities are already required by law to appoint a responsible authority for administration of the responsibilities under the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act (MGDPA). If a city fails to appoint one, the law now states that the responsible authority is either the elected or appointed clerk, or if there is none, the “chief clerical officer for filing and record-keeping purposes.”
Required data practices policies
The new law clarifies that cities are required to maintain and update three written policies related to administration of the MGDPA:
Security information data
Under the new law, if a city denies a request for data by classifying the data as security information under Minnesota Statutes, section 13.37, it must provide “a short description explaining the necessity for the classification.”
Contractor and subcontractor employee data
The law will classify as private data the phone numbers, home addresses, and email addresses of employees working for contractors or subcontractors who contract with cities on or after Aug. 1, 2012. However, the data must be disclosed to a government entity or any person for “prevailing wage purposes.” (Minnesota’s prevailing wage laws are often indirectly enforced by private individuals who calculate the wages paid to various employees to determine the prevailing wage.)
The new language in Minnesota Statutes, section 13.43, subdivision 19, creates an exception to the general rule that a city may not require a person requesting data to identify himself or state a reason for the request. Because this data are only public for a specific purpose, a city should confirm with the requester that the data will only be used for that purpose. Cities may wish to provide a written statement describing the limitation and noting that any other use would violate the MGDPA.
A city may ask that a requester sign such a statement; however, a city likely may not require that the requester sign it as a condition of receiving the information, because the new language does not waive the identity prohibition in Minnesota Statutes, section 13.05, subdivision 12. Cities should consult with their city attorney with any questions about the implementation of this provision.
Settlement agreement and complaint data made public
A $250,000 settlement agreement between the Burnsville School District and a management employee resulted in legislation that makes more government employee data public under the MGDPA. The MGDPA already classifies the terms of such employee settlement agreements as public data, but a dispute arose when the school district redacted certain information, including data revealing the nature of the dispute.
As a result, Rep. Pam Myhra and Sen. Dan Hall, both Republicans from Burnsville, introduced legislation to significantly expand the types of data classified as public. The League and other groups negotiated a compromise that recognized the legitimate concerns raised by the Burnsville case while minimizing the impact on cities.
Chapter 280 (HF 2647), passed unanimously by the Legislature, became effective on May 5, 2012, and applies to any agreement entered into or modified after that date.
The law now states that the “complete” terms of an agreement settling any dispute arising out of an employee relations issue, including a buyout, are public data, if the payment is more than $10,000 of public funds. This is consistent with an advisory opinion issued by the Department of Administration during the legislative session.
Data relating to complaints against employees
Chapter 280 also makes data related to complaints filed against upper level management personnel public, expanding the reach of a statute that had only applied to state agencies.
The following city employees will be subject to the new disclosure requirements:
Information related to a complaint or charge against a covered employee is public if any of the following is true:
The new law also provides that it does not authorize the release of data that are made not public under other law (e.g., health care data).
A summary of both bills can be found on page 13 of the 2012 Law Summaries (pdf).
Contact Patrick Hynes
(651) 281-1260 or (800) 925-1122
Contact Scott Kelly
(651) 281-1224 or (800) 925-1122
Each edition of the Focus on New Laws column highlights a law passed in the 2012 legislative session that cities need to know about. Please be sure to always consult your city attorney with technical questions about compliance with laws. For more information about new laws, check out the League’s 2012 Law Summaries (pdf).