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 IPA and, except for any data classified as not public, are available for public access.
On October 21, 1999, IPA received a letter dated October 18, 1999, from Joseph Ayuyu. In the letter, Mr. Ayuyu requested that the Commissioner issue an opinion regarding his access to certain data maintained by the City of Appleton.
IPA, on behalf of the Commissioner, wrote to Robert Thompson, City Coordinator for the City of Appleton, in response to Mr. Ayuyu's request. The purposes of this letter, dated October 26, 1999, were to inform him of Mr. Ayuyu's request and to ask him to provide information or support for the City's position. On November 8, 1999, IPA staff contacted Mr. Thompson's office whose staff advised that he would not be responding to the Commissioner's letter.
A summary of the facts is as follows. Mr. Ayuyu wrote that on September 16, 1999, he requested access to the following "reports submitted by the warden at Prairie Correctional Facility":
1. Monthly warden's report, containing an overview of each department's operation in either narrative or statistical forms.
2. Quarterly report containing narrative or statistical description of major development in each department, major incident, population data, assessment of staff and inmate moral (sic), and major problems and plans for solving them.
3. Policies/procedures governing the health Care Services, Inmates trust funds, and Inmates Commissary.
In a letter dated September 23, 1999, Roger Swenson, an attorney representing the City of Appleton, responded to Mr. Ayuyu's request.
Mr. Ayuyu then requested this opinion.
In his request for an opinion, Mr. Ayuyu asked the Commissioner to address the following issue:
Pursuant to Minnesota Statutes, section 13.03, subdivision 1, all government data are presumed public unless otherwise classified by statute, federal law, or temporary classification (see section 13.06). Government data are defined as all data collected, created, received, maintained, or disseminated by any government entity. (See section 13.02, subdivision 7.) In the case of this opinion, the City of Appleton received the data in question from the Prairie Correctional Facility.
Mr. Swenson made two statements in his September 23, 1999, letter. He first wrote that Appleton had previously provided some information to Mr. Ayuyu, specifically the "assignment and delegation of [Appleton Economic Development Authority] duties and responsibilities to CCA." (The Commissioner assumes this means the Community Corrections Act.) It appears to the Commissioner that this information is not part of what Mr. Ayuyu requested on September 16, 1999.
Mr. Swenson also stated, "All of the other documents requested are not public information as either proprietary information protected from disclosure by Minn. Stat. Sec. 13.37 Subd. 1(b), or corrections and detention data protected from disclosure by Minn. Stat. Sec. 13.85."
The Commissioner finds Mr. Swenson's comments problematic. First, the fact that data are proprietary does not, in and of itself, mean that they are protected from disclosure by section 13.37, subdivision 1(b), trade secret data. As the Commissioner has stated in several previous advisory opinions, to be considered trade secret under section 13.37, government data must satisfy four elements that comprise the statutory definition: 1) they must be a collection of information; 2) that were supplied by the affected individual or organization; 3) that are the subject of reasonable efforts to maintain their secrecy; and 4) that, a) derive independent, i.e., on their own, economic value, b) from not being generally known to or readily ascertainable by, c) other persons who can obtain economic value from its disclosure or use.
If a government entity is refusing to disclose data on the basis that they are classified as not public pursuant to section 13.37, subdivision 1(b), the entity must be able to demonstrate that all four criteria are satisfied. In this case, Mr. Swenson did not provide any information to support his assertion that the data are trade secret. Therefore, the Commissioner opines that the data are presumed public.
Mr. Swenson also argued that the City cannot release the data in question because they are not public pursuant to section 13.85, corrections and detention data. The Commissioner respectfully disagrees with the City's position. Mr. Ayuyu asked to inspect reports that he asserted the warden of the Prairie Correctional Facility had disseminated to the City. From Mr. Ayuyu's description of these reports, they appear to be statistical or narrative in nature. It does not appear that they would contain identifying data. Therefore, because section 13.85, subdivision 1, applies only to data on individuals, the City cannot use it as a basis for denying Mr. Ayuyu's request.
Based on the facts and information provided, my opinion on the issue raised by Mr. Ayuyu is as follows:
David F. Fisher
Dated: December 9, 1999