Minnesota, USA

Minnesota Public Records Guide

Minnesota Government Data Practices Act (MGDPA)

Minn. Stat. Ann. 13.03

Established 1974

Overview

When enacted into law the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act or MGDPA as it is known in the state, the Legislature’s intention was to create a broad public records law that would consider basically all records public except only very specific documents. This led them to create their style of exempting documents through broad records categories. If one examines this list of records categories today, they will see that it is not nearly so broad as they might have hoped. In reality special interests and lawmakers have made quite a few kinds of records exempt including police techniques, records involving financial institutions, collective bargaining agreement records and so on. Certain records of the courts and Legislature are also exempt. On the flip side, personnel records like government employee salary, pensions, job description and other information is available, so Minnesota’s exemption list both gives and takes away

Minnesota does have administrative appeals through filing to the Commissioner of Administration. While there are no specific response times agencies are obligated to adhere to, one can file an appeal up to two years after receiving the denial. Fees can be a little confusing in Minnesota, and seem to be changing with agencies charging for search and labor costs more and more. Enforcement for MGDPA is a small fine for the agency and for more serious willful violations of the law, a misdemeanor charge that could result in the employee who handled the request being fired.

The Law

  • No specific response time
  • Appeal to the Commissioner of Administration
  • Some records from Legislature and Judiciary are exempted
  • No citizenship requirement to request

Supplemental

MN record retention schedule

MN court records

The Details

Can you submit a request if you’re not a resident?

Yes.

To whom does this apply?

Executive?

Yes.

Legislative?

Some documents like communication records are available to be requested but the Legislature is exempt in many cases.

Judicial?

In theory the judicial branch is not exempt, but many of their records are. Domestic abuse records, court service records, and documents of judicial work product are considered exempt as are administrative records such as security, employee, and applicant records.

Who is exempted?

While some records of the judiciary and legislature are exempt, all governmental bodies can be requested.

Is there a designated records custodian?

No.

How long do they have to respond?

Not specifically stipulated. The language within the law states that requests be filled in an “appropriate and prompt manner.”

Does the agency have to give you a tracking number or estimated date of completion?

No.

Can they ask why you ask?

No.

What enforcement?

$300 fine can be levied by a court ordering an agency to grant access. It may also be classified as a misdemeanor depending if it was a willful violation or not. If it is filed as a misdemeanor the offending FOIA officer could be suspended without pay, or lose their job.

Fees?

The MGDPA is unclear on many of the facets of FOIA fees. In person inspection carries no charge, and government records that are electronic can be charged for the time spent searching for and duplicating the records electronically, but may not charge for redaction or legal review.

Agencies in Minnesota have begun charging for search time and labor costs on lengthy requests and this practice has been held up on appeal. Paying for FOIA has been a growing issue for records requesters in Minnesota, and looks to be getting worse not better.

An important legal precedent for this was set in Demers v. City of Minneapolis, 468 N.W.2d 71 (Minn. 1991).

Are there fee waivers for media requests or those made in the public interest?

There are no fee waivers of any kind provided for by the MGDPA.

Attorney’s fees - Can you win them?

Yes.

Exemptions and Appeals

What exemptions exist?

Rather than list off exemptions like other states, in an effort to make the law broad when the Minnesota Legislature was drafting the bill, categories of records were put together and then records that are not considered public specifically statuted in that record category. For instance, under the section “Personnel Records” the exact records considered public are identified, extending to name, salary range, education, job title, training background, pension information, are all considered public. Collective bargaining records are a different story however, and the position of management is deemed private not public information.

Gun permit data is considered private, records from financial institutions are also deemed private. Records of law enforcement arrest reports are public, as are investigatory records that do not deal with an active investigation or compromise another investigation, or reveal the identity of a protected person. Most prison records are not public, as are accident reports and highway construction projects. Police techniques are considered private.

The list is long and exhaustive and it is highly recommended you take a look here. The last thing to be aware of is that a number of records categories are not dealt with specifically in the act including school and university records, expense reports, and applications.

Do they have to tell you why a portion or pages were redacted or withheld?

Yes.

How much time do you have to appeal?

Two years.

Can you appeal the courts?

Yes.You can also appeal to the Commisioner of Administration.

Resources

Organizations

Minnesota Coalition on Government Information

Attorneys and Law Firms

The following attorneys and law firms have practiced public records law. Names marked with an asterisk have indicated a willingness to offer pro bono services on a case by case basis.

There are currently no experienced public records law attorneys that we know of in Minnesota. Write to us at info@MuckRock.com if you know of any and want to help us out!

Successful appeals

News Stories on Public Records Laws in the State

Too much data classified as private in MN

Blogs and feeds primarily focused on public records in Minnesota

Public Records Guide and Advice

rcfp MN exemption guide

Newsletters

Let us know

Big FOIA wins

Have a public records success story? Let us know!

Stats

Request Record
238 Filed
84 Completed
4 Rejected
75 No Responsive Documents
16 Awaiting Acknowledgement
10 Awaiting Response
18 Requiring Action
Appeals
1 appeal awaiting response
Allowed Response Time
No limit
Average Response Time
60 days
Success Rate
31.09%
Average Fee
$121.75
7.98% of requests have a fee

Top Agencies See All

Agency Requests Pages Released
Minnesota Pollution Control Agency 123 12
Minneapolis Police Department 94 293
Department of Corrections 64 256
Hennepin County Sheriff 57 59
St. Anthony Police Department 46 7
Minnesota State Patrol 31 96
Bureau of Criminal Apprehension 29 14
Airport Police Department 27 126
Department of Human Services 26 246
Minnesota Homeland Security and Emergency Management 25 489

Top Localities See All

Jurisdiction Requests Pages Released
Minneapolis, MN 185 502
Hennepin County, MN 66 139
Saint Paul, MN 48 350
Belle Plaine, MN 13 420
Anoka County, MN 12 13
Bloomington, MN 7 1
Washington County, MN 7 2
Richfield, MN 6 0
Appleton, MN 5 0
Duluth, MN 4 0