consultants are sandburs

Friday, January 11, 2013

In Minnesota, "IPAD" means more than a toy you can buy from Apple.

It means info about data practices and open meeting law within the state.

This link.

Here, for 2012 advisory opinions, so readers can browse and compare this to online AGOs - Attorney General Opinions - as a way citizens can learn of possible ways to work with city halls, county boards, and such, in gaining access to information.

In getting sunshine onto things.

Surely Data Disclosure Request law can be abused by onerous requests with little clear purpose other than to harass busy public officials. But as with everything there is a balance, and a public official should not impose onerous actions between citizen requests to be informed, and records containing information.

This post is NOT about any particular government, as exemplary one way or the other.

It is a post to citizens, about ways to better know and exploit rights of citizenship.

Also a caveat, as a practical matter, an obstreperous official, denying access, cannot be made to change by waving a handful of IPAD advisory opinions at him/her. As always, a court order is needed to compel an action. A writ of mandamus, whatever you care to call it, but you have to jump through hoops if an official says no. No law anywhere is self enforcing.

As an example of IPAD analysis, the James Bond 007 item, here. With what is good precedent for citizens, per the opinion's bottom line:

For background, sometimes obstreperous idiots make data requests, and it can lead to a sound precedent. Presumably when reasonableness exists on both sides no IPAD opinion may be sought or issued, hence a reasonable transaction without precedent occurs.

I have made data requests of City of Ramsey. In all instances but one I was satisfied with city response, in terms of timeliness, production of data, and fees for copying when copies were requested.

The one case where I was denied access, and did not care to pay a court filing fee to seek to gain judicial review, might fall into the obstreperous idiot category. It is an arguable point.

The Ramsey council in the past, when James Norman was city administrator, held a closed session and I came to believe there was a letter written to Ramsey officials by an official of another governmental entity in Minnesota, which entity I could not say, about conduct of James Norman while in China. As a public document relating to a Ramsey official acting in an official capacity and how he behaved, I felt entitled to examine that letter - if in fact such letter actually existed. City Attorney Goodrich interposed the "personnel" exception as cloaking all aspects of that meeting, and I felt this was error. This was not about some internal review of a person's work habits or productivity, but someone outside of the city reporting things observed in a public place in another nation and opinions about such things; or that is my understanding of the correspondence I believed existed but have never examined. I can understand Bill's position and do not fault it greatly, but the fact is my motive and whether I might indecorously publicize something is apart from legal duty to produce. (Surely I gladly would have paid a copying fee and would have treasured the retained copy, if my beliefs are correct.)

I think I would have won that one had I filed court papers. We will never know.

Others who were on council then and participated in the closed meeting, they know.

That's how things in that one instance ended, and now are in repose.

No comments: