This is an opinion of the Commissioner of Administration issued pursuant to section 13.072 of Minnesota Statutes, Chapter 13 - the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act. It is based on the facts and information available to the Commissioner as described below.
Facts and Procedural History:
For purposes of simplification, the information presented by the person who requested this opinion and the response from the government entity with which the person disagrees are presented in summary form. Copies of the complete submissions are on file at the offices of PIPA and, except for any data classified as not public, are available for public access.
On April 21, 1998, PIPA received a letter dated April 20, 1998, from Michael Ravnitzky. In his letter, Mr. Ravnitzky requested an opinion regarding his access to data maintained by the Minnesota Department of Commerce.
PIPA, on behalf of the Commissioner, wrote to David Gruenes, Commissioner of the Department of Commerce, in response to Mr. Ravnitzky's request. The purposes of this letter, dated April 24, 1998, were to inform him of Mr. Ravnitzky's request and to ask him to provide information or support for the Department's position. On May 1, 1998, PIPA received comments from Mr. Gruenes in a letter dated April 30, 1998.
A summary of the facts surrounding this matter is as follows. In a letter dated March 29, 1998, Mr. Ravnitzky requested that the Department of Commerce provide him access to the following data:
The Commissioner's Daily Schedule for late September and early October 1997, covering the time period when the Commissioner and Commerce Employee Laurie Esau went to Washington, DC to lobby for the tobacco settlement, which was composed in electronic form, printed in hardcopy and posted, and emailed to various people at the Commerce Department, including Laurie Esau, Dee Annisberger and Bary Ryan. (Emphasis provided.)
In a letter dated April 15, 1998, Commissioner Gruenes responded to Mr. Ravnitzky's request for data. He stated that pursuant to Minnesota Statutes Section 13.43, appointment calendars are classified as private data. Commissioner Gruenes also cited Advisory Opinion 96-055 in which the Commissioner (of Administration) opined that data in the appointment calendar of the Commissioner of the Human Rights Department were private personnel data and not accessible to the public.
In his request for an opinion, Mr. Ravnitzky asked the Commissioner to address the following issue:
Government data collected, created, maintained, etc., because an individual is or was an employee of a government entity are classified at Section 13.43, personnel data. Section 13.43, subdivision 2, lists the various types of personnel data classified as public and subdivision 4 provides that all other personnel data are private, and not accessible to members of the public.
In Advisory Opinion 96-055, the Commissioner wrote that data in the appointment calendar in question were collected and created because that person is or was a public employee. Therefore, the data are classified pursuant to Section 13.43. Further, because appointment calendar data are not among the types of data classified as public pursuant to subdivision 2 of Section 13.43, those data are private.
The same analysis applies to the situation presented by Mr. Ravnitzky. Commissioner Gruenes is an employee of a government entity. The data in the calendar are maintained by the Department because he is a government employee. In commenting on Mr. Ravnitzky's opinion request, Commissioner Gruenes wrote:
First, I maintain a copy of my personal calendar on my computer in my office. This calendar has never been posted in the department. Furthermore, access to this calendar is limited to my personal staff in order to avoid scheduling conflicts and to know my whereabouts in case of an emergency.
From the information provided, is appears the data in the appointment calendars are not included in the list of data classified as public at Section 13.43, subdivision 2. Therefore, as provided in Section 13.43, subdivision 4, the data are private.
In his opinion request, Mr. Ravnitzky argued that because the "record" had been shared with other people in the Department, some of the data were presumably public. This is not necessarily correct. Pursuant to Minnesota Rules Section 1205.0400, private data may be disclosed to individuals within the entity whose work assignments reasonably require access. In this case, it is reasonable to conclude that some of Commissioner Gruenes' staff members needed access to his calendar to do their jobs.
Based on the facts and information provided, my opinion on the issue raised by Mr. Ravnitzky is as follows:
Elaine S. Hansen
Dated: June 4, 1998