Disability Rights Activist Challenges Novel Interpretation of Data Practices Act

 

January 14, 2020



In July 2018, after waiting five months for Carver County to even acknowledge a request for data, Disability Advocate Noah McCourt was forced to sue them. The case was settled in October 2018 after the Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Administration opined that Carver County failed to approproately respond to the request.

To avoid going through another lengthy process, McCourt submitted a standing request for data on August 13, 2018. The Data Practices Office has stated "Although the, language of the Data Practices Act does not specifically mention standing requests, the Commissioner has opined that entities should honor standing requests." Three Commissioner of Administration opinions have validated the use of standing data requests: 96-047, 03-046, and 04-007.

Although it’s clear that government entities are required to honor standing data requests, the Carver County Attorney issued a legal opinion saying that the County doesn't have to respond to standing data requests. To date, the county has refused to respond to my request.


In October of 2019 McCourt filed suit against Carver County to force them to honor his standing request. It is essential that the right to submit standing requests be preserved. Many organizations use these requests to access data on police complaints, budget and legal compliance, traffic stops and other important ongoing data that allows the community to understand the work of government agencies and hold them accountable.

“I know that government entities hate the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act. They've been trying to gut it for years. They’re looking for a fight, so I chose to give them one.”

 

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