This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2000).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
City of St. Cloud,
International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers,
Local No. 292,
Filed November 13, 2001
Robert H. Schumacher, Judge
Jan F. Peterson, St. Cloud City Attorney, City Hall, 400 Second Street South, St. Cloud, MN 56301 (for respondent St. Cloud)
Richard A. Miller, Brendan D. Cummins, Miller O'Brien, 1208 Plymouth Building, 12 South Sixth Street, Minneapolis, MN 55402 (for respondent IBEW Local 292)
Considered and decided by Shumaker, Presiding Judge, Toussaint, Chief Judge, and Schumacher, Judge.
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
ROBERT H. SCHUMACHER, Judge
Appellants Design Electric, Inc., several of its employees, and Christian Labor Association, which represents Design's employees for collective-bargaining purposes (collectively Design) sued respondent City of St. Cloud, alleging that the city's disclosure of Design's payroll information to respondent intervenor International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) violated various statutes and Design's common-law right to privacy. After the information had been released, the district court granted summary judgment for IBEW and the city. The district court also ruled that there was no controversy remaining. Design challenges the summary judgment and argues that the case is not moot because IBEW will seek Design's payroll information on other construction projects. We dismiss the appeal as moot.
IBEW has unsuccessfully tried to organize and represent Design's employees since 1992. In 1997, Design was awarded a subcontract for work on a city project. The subcontract required Design to pay its employees the "prevailing wage." Upon completing its portion of the work on the project, Design, to verify that it had paid the prevailing wage, gave payroll information to the contractor who provided the information to the city. IBEW sought that information under the Data Practices Act, Design opposed the request, and the city indicated it would provide the information to IBEW.
Design then sued the city, seeking a temporary restraining order and either an injunction or damages. Design alleged disclosure of the information would invade Design's privacy and that the information was protected by the Data Practices Act. In September 1999, the district court granted IBEW's motion to intervene, denied Design's request for temporary relief, and the city disclosed Design's payroll information to IBEW.
Fourteen months later, in November 2000, Design filed its motion for summary judgment on its claims. In February 2001, the district court awarded IBEW and the city summary judgment. The district court also ruled that "no controversy" remained in the case. Design, which has been awarded work on other city prevailing-wage projects since 1997 and which has had its payroll information on at least one of those projects disclosed to IBEW, appeals.
The district court ruled there was "no controversy remaining in this case" because the "specific information at issue in this case was released over two years ago." Whether a case is moot is a legal question. See In re McCaskill, 603 N.W.2d 326, 327 (Minn. 1999) (stating, on review of this court's dismissal of an appeal as moot, that whether an appeal is moot "is a legal issue which we review de novo").
An appellate court's inability to grant relief generally renders an issue moot. In re Schmidt, 443 N.W.2d 824, 826 (Minn. 1989). Here Design's complaint identified "THE DISPUTE" as involving IBEW's request for Design's payroll information on the first project at issue. That complaint sought a temporary restraining order and an injunction prohibiting disclosure of that information or, alternatively, damages. Later, Design "disclaimed" any request for damages, and it is undisputed that Design's payroll information for its first project as well as at least one other project has been disclosed to IBEW. Under these circumstances, even if release of Design's payroll information regarding either of the first two projects was improper, this court cannot grant relief and those aspects of this appeal are moot.
An exception to the general rule that an issue is moot if relief cannot be granted exists if the issue is capable of repetition yet evading review. McCaskill, 603 N.W.2d at 327. Design claims this case fits that exception because Design is currently working on another public project and IBEW will seek Design's payroll information for that project. But, if IBEW seeks payroll information in the future, Design can seek relief in the district court and, if necessary, seek appellate relief from any unfavorable ruling. Because doing so would present the relevant issue(s) for review, Design has not shown that this case fits the capable-of-repetition-yet-evading-review exception to the general mootness rule. See McCaskill, 603 N.W.2d at 328 (stating "issue is capable of repetition yet evading review if it does not remain a live controversy until the completion of the appellate review but due to its nature may reoccur"); see generally Minneapolis Fed'n of Teachers Local, AFL-CIO, Local 59 v. Minneapolis Pub. Special Sch. Dist. Number 1, 512 N.W.2d 107, 109 (Minn. App. 1994) (involving appeal taken after reporters sought teacher-disciplinary information under Data Practices Act, after union's request to enjoin disclosure of information was denied, and after union posted supersedeas bond to stay release of information pending appeal), review denied (Minn. Mar. 31, 1994).
Because we conclude the appeal is moot, we do not address the parties' other disputes regarding the propriety of the district court's ruling.