The Government Data Practices Act provides that all government data are public unless a state or federal law says the data are not public. Government data is a term that means all recorded information a government entity has, including paper, email, DVDs, photographs, and other forms of data.
The Government Data Practices Act also provides that government agencies must keep all data in a way that makes it easy for members of the public to access public data. If a government agency refuses access to public government data, the law allows individuals to file a complaint with the Office of Administrative Hearings.
Data Practices complaints must be accompanied by a $1,000 filing fee. To find a form for filing a Data Practices complaint, click here.
General Steps in the Complaint Process
- Once a Data Practices complaint is received at the Office of Administrative Hearings, the state agency must respond within 15 business days.
- OAH notifies the subject of the data and the Commissioner of Administration of the complaint. If the Commissioner of Administration already has the same complaint, the complaint will be dismissed and the $1,000 filing fee refunded.
- The Judge must rule on the complaint within 20 business days after the agency responds. Depending on the facts alleged, the Judge may dismiss the complaint or schedule a hearing.
- If the complaint is dismissed, the person who brought the complaint may request that the Chief Administrative Law Judge reconsider the dismissal decision within five business days.
- If the Chief Administrative Law Judge determines that the Judge made a mistake, the complaint will be set for hearing within 30 days.
- At the hearing, the parties present evidence and testimony to support their position.
- The Administrative Law Judge issues a decision within ten business days after the record closes.
- In the decision, the Judge must (1) dismiss the complaint; (2) determine that the agency violated the law; (3) impose a fine of up to $300; (4) issue an order requiring the agency to comply with the law; and/or (5) refer the complaint for possible criminal charges.
Notice to Subjects of Data
Even if a data practices complaint has been filed with the Office of Administrative Hearings which could result in disclosure of certain data about you, you are not necessarily a party to the proceeding. You can request party status by filing a written Motion for Intervention detailing your interest in the dispute and what rights, if any, will be impacted if you are not included in the proceeding. You must Include the case name and docket number, and serve the Motion upon all other parties.
For more information about this process, contact a staff attorney at the Office of Administrative Hearings at (651) 361-7837.