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Advisory Opinion 04-018

March 31, 2004; School District 832 (Mahtomedi)

3/31/2004 10:14:43 AM

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:

On March 12, 2004, IPAD received a letter from Karen Kepple, an attorney representing Independent School District 832, Mahtomedi. In her letter, Ms. Kepple asked the Commissioner to issue an advisory opinion regarding the classification of certain data the District maintains.

A summary of the facts is as follows. In opinion request, Ms. Kepple wrote:

This letter is a request for an advisory opinion as to whether personal notes taken by a school board member during a school board meeting, which are later used to prepare preliminary school board minutes are exempt from disclosure under Minnesota Statutes, Chapter 13.


Issue:

In her request for an opinion, Ms. Kepple asked the Commissioner to address the following issue:

Pursuant to Minnesota Statutes, Chapter 13, what is the classification of the following data that School District 832, Mahtomedi, maintains: personal notes taken by a school board member during a school board meeting, which are later used to prepare preliminary school board minutes?



Discussion:

Pursuant to Minnesota Statutes, section 13.03, subdivision 1, government data are classified as public unless otherwise classified.

In the situation Ms. Kepple describes, at a school board meeting, a school board member takes notes, which later are used to prepare preliminary minutes. Ms. Kepple did not provide the Commissioner with a sample of the data in question. Although Ms. Kepple describes the notes as personal, she did not assert that the notes contain data other than those from which school board minutes are prepared. Therefore, the Commissioner assumes the only data contained in the notes are those from which the minutes are prepared.

In analyzing the classification of the data in the notes, it is important to determine whether the school board member is the subject of the notes. If so, and if the board member is an elected official, the data are classified pursuant to section 13.43 or are public pursuant to the general presumption in section 13.03, subdivision 1. (See Advisory Opinion 03-011 for a more detailed discussion about the treatment of data about elected officials.) If the school board member is not the subject of the notes, the data are classified pursuant to the general presumption in section 13.03, subdivision 1.

The Commissioner has not seen a sample of the type of notes in question. However, it does not appear the school board member would be the subject of the type of notes Ms. Kepple describes. Assuming this to be the case, the notes are public unless otherwise classified. It is possible, however, that a school board member, in the course of taking notes for the minutes, will record his/ her vote on a particular issue or comments that s/he made about a particular matter before the board. Such data, technically, are data about the board member. Given the operation of Chapter 13D, the Open Meeting Law, the Commissioner believes those types of data are public.


Opinion:

Based on the facts and information provided, my opinion on the issue that Ms. Kepple raised is as follows:

Pursuant to Minnesota Statutes, section 13.03, subdivision 1, personal notes taken by a school board member during a school board meeting, which are later used to prepare preliminary school board minutes, most likely are public unless otherwise classified.

Signed:

Brian J. Lamb
Commissioner

Dated: March 31, 2004


Open Meeting Law

School board members

School boards

Minutes, personal notes

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