Brandon Smith speaks on lawsuit that pried open police video At 2016 Freedom of Information Day & Finnegan FOI Award Ceremony

Mar 7, 2016 | No Comments

Minneapolis, MN: February 16 – At noon Wednesday, March 16, 2016, the Minnesota Coalition on Government Information (MNCOGI) will present its annual Freedom of Information Day Award at the Minneapolis Central Library. The event coincides with Sunshine Week, a national initiative aimed at highlighting government transparency.

The keynote speaker for the event is independent journalist Brandon Smith, whose lawsuit against the Chicago Police Department forced the City of Chicago to release a police dash cam video. The video shows a police officer shooting 17­year­old Laquan McDonald 16 times as he walked away from the officer on a Chicago street in October 2014. On November 24, 2015, after battling the release of the video for months, and just hours before its release to the public, State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez charged police Officer Jason Van Dyke with first degree murder.

Following Brandon Smith’s remarks, MNCOGI will bestow its annual John R. Finnegan Freedom of Information Award to the 2016 recipient. The John R. Finnegan Freedom of Information Award was established by MNCOGI in 1989 and is named for the retired senior vice­president and assistant publisher of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Finnegan was a lifelong stalwart of open meetings, open records and the First Amendment. He was instrumental in creating the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act – the state’s open records framework. Each year, the award honors a M innesotan or Minnesota institution whose work demonstrates leadership and commitment to the power of information to effect change.

When: Wednesday, March 16, 2016, 12:00pm­1:00pm
Where: Minneapolis Central Library, Pohlad Hall, 300 Nicollet Mall, Mpls, MN 55401

Freedom of Information Day is commemorated each year on March 16th, the birthdate of James Madison, a champion of access and transparency in government.

Pictures and Video from the 2013 Finnegan Award

Mar 25, 2013 | No Comments

MNCOGI’s 2013 Freedom of Information Day presentation

Judge Kathleen Gearin

MNCOGI Chair Helen Burke and John R. Finnegan Jr.

John R. Finnegan Jr.

John R. Finnegan Jr. presents the John R. Finnegan Freedom of Information Award to Michele Timmons.

MNCOGI’s 2013 Freedom of Information Day award

Michele Timmons accepts the John R. Finnegan Freedom of Information Award.


Video from The UpTake

Man who was charged after recording deputies has free lawyer

Jan 15, 2013 | No Comments

A private attorney working with the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota has agreed to represent a Little Canada man whose video camera was taken from him by a sheriff’s deputy.

Andrew Henderson, 28, was recording an incident involving a man at his apartment building Oct. 30 when Ramsey County sheriff’s deputy Jacqueline Muellner grabbed the camera.

Henderson was later charged with obstructing legal process and disorderly conduct. He said he was sitting about 30 feet away from the incident. Muellner wrote on the citation that Henderson was interfering with the privacy of the other man, who was being loaded into an ambulance.

Henderson eventually got the camera back, but there was no recording on it. He believes it was deleted.

“A citizen such as Mr. Henderson has an absolute right to be present in a public area, as he was, and to take pictures or to film the surroundings, including police officers that were present,” said Henderson’s attorney, John Lundquist of Fredrikson & Byron in Minneapolis, on Friday, Jan. 11. “And by seizing his camera, they violated in a very dramatic way his First Amendment rights.”

Lundquist is a criminal defense attorney with 30 years experience at his firm.

Chuck Samuelson of the ACLU confirmed that the nonprofit had come to a verbal agreement with Lundquist and Henderson on Friday on Henderson’s representation.

Attorneys with the firm of Kelly & Lemmons, which is prosecuting Henderson on behalf of the city of
Little Canada, did not immediately return phone calls seeking comment Friday.

“We figure that when they’re faced with legitimate legal representation, they’ll say, ‘Oops, our bad,’ and drop the case,” Samuelson said.

Henderson’s next court appearance is scheduled for Jan. 30.
When Muellner took his camera the night of the incident, she told him, “If I end up on YouTube, I’m gonna be upset.”

Henderson told her that what he was doing was legal. He refused to give his name.

But he identified himself when he went to the sheriff’s station the next day to retrieve the camera. He received the citation in the mail a few days after that.

Henderson’s case is similar to others around the country involving citizens recording police activities.

Courts have ruled elsewhere that law enforcement officers have no expectation of privacy when they carry out their duties in a public place.

Ramsey County sheriff’s spokesman Randy Gustafson said Tuesday that it is not the department’s policy to take people’s cameras. People are within their rights to record deputies’ activities, he said.

Henderson said he carries his camera with him and uses it often. Police should be held accountable for their actions, he said.

The deputy wrote on the citation, “While handling a medical/check the welfare (call), (Henderson) was filming it. Data privacy HIPAA violation. Refused to identify self. Had to stop dealing with sit(uation) to deal w/Henderson.”

HIPAA, or the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, deals with how consumers’ health information is handled by health care providers. It does not cover private citizens recording a medical event.

The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in May ruled that an Illinois law barring audio recording of a conversation without consent of all parties “restricts far more speech than necessary to protect legitimate privacy interests.” As applied in that case, “(the law) likely violates the First Amendment’s free-speech and free-press guarantees,” the court ruled.

The U.S. Supreme Court declined in November to hear the state’s appeal.

In another case, Boston attorney Simon Glik was arrested in 2007 after he used his cellphone to videorecord several police officers roughly arresting another man. The state charged him with violating Massachusetts’ wiretap law; those charges were thrown out.

Glik sued the city of Boston, claiming his arrest constituted a violation of his rights under the First and Fourth Amendments.

The 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in 2011 that Glik was “exercising clearly established First Amendment rights in filming the officers in a public space, and that his clearly established Fourth Amendment rights were violated by his arrest without probable cause.”

The city of Boston paid Glik $170,000.

Emily Gurnon can be reached at 651-228-5522. Follow her at twitter.com/emilygurnon.

COGI-tation on Data Practices issues facing the MN Legislature

Jan 8, 2013 | No Comments

On January 28, 2013, the Minnesota Coalition on Government Information (MNCOGI) will host a public discussion on Data Practices issues facing the 2013 Minnesota Legislature.  The Minnesota Data Practices Act is the state’s chief open government law.
 
Issues to be discussed will include the status of license plate scan data; whether citizen e-mail addresses held by government entities should be public or private; the extent to which personnel data about public officials should be public, the degree to which “criminal intelligence data” should be kept secret, and possible changes to how the Data Practices Act is enforced.

COGI-tations are free, public forums sponsored by the
Minnesota Coalition on Government Information.

Discussion:
Monday, Jan 28, 2013, 2-3:30 pm in MN Capitol Meeting Room 118

Presenter: 
MNCOGI board member Don Gemberling will present MNCOGI’s positions on several issues that will come before the legislature this year.  Mr. Gemberling was the past director of IPAD, the office within the Department of Administration responsible for Data Practices issues.

Questions? Contact: Helen Burke, MNCOGI Board Chair at MNCOGI@gmail.com

​A Look at Cameras in Minnesota Courts

Oct 16, 2012 | No Comments

The Minnesota Supreme Court is allowing cameras to record proceedings in civil cases for a test that runs through June 30, 2013. The Minnesota Coalition on Government Information is hosting a panel discussion to examine this experiment at its halfway point. 

Minnesota news organizations hope that the test will demonstrate that recording equipment does not disrupt court proceedings, and can enhance the public’s understanding of what goes on inside its courts.  They also hope that the experiment will open the door to expanded coverage of criminal court proceedings in Minnesota.

Panel discussion:
Wednesday, Oct. 24,  11am-12:30pm in Room 10 of the State Office Building. 

Panelists include:
Seventh District Assistant Chief Judge John H. Scherer of Stearns County
Ramsey County District Judge Margaret Marrinan
Emily Gurnon, courts reporter for the St. Paul Pioneer Press
Joan Gilbertson, producer for WCCO-TV
David Unze, reporter for the St. Cloud Times

Moderator:  John P. Borger, MNCOGI board member and partner at Faegre Baker Daniels

Minnesota CLE credits are pending approval

Questions?  Contact Helen Burke, MNCOGI Board Chair at mncogi@gmail.com

“Digging Digital Docs” is Featured in the FYI Newsletter

Nov 17, 2010 | No Comments

For people tracking data practices activities in Minnesota, FYI: From the Information Policy Division the The Fall 2010 issue of  features a recap of the recent COGI-tations workshop by David Cullier from the University of Arizona, “Digging Digital Docs.”  It also includes an update on the gang database workgroup. 

Transparency and academic freedom in Texas

Nov 17, 2010 | No Comments

An article in the September/October issue of ACADEME, “Three Clicks and Academic Freedom is Out,” describes a new law in Texas.  As a result of legislation passed in 2009, all public universities are required to post detailed syllabi for all undergraduate courses, a curriculum vitae for each regular instructor, a department budget report for each course offered, and reports of student course evaluations.  The author notes this law as an example of how “activists, notable in Texas but with ties to other states and to national groups, have adopted the rhetoric of transparency to further their own conservative agendas.”

College Records are Public Documents Too

Sep 20, 2010 | No Comments

David Cuillier will be speaking at the upcoming COGI-tations lecture, “Digging Digital Docs: The Law and Practical Strategies for Acquiring Government Electronic Records,” on September 27, 2010.  Cuillier wrote The Art of Access with Charles Davis of the National Freedom of Information Coalition.  Since there will always be more stories about public records being concealed or revealed, they maintain an blog with the same name. An  interesting recent post described a lawsuit filed by an open government group in California, asking California State University to disclose their speakers contract for a recent appearance by Sarah Palin.  The contract was a public record, Stanislaus County Superior Court Judge Roger Beauchesne ruled.  See the story: “Bendable Straws.. Really?

Upcoming COGI-tations Lecture (in which you will learn there is nothing dry about government records)

Sep 10, 2010 | No Comments

If you can get up early on a Monday morning, there’s a great lecture coming up on September 27, part of the COGI-tations series from the   Minnesota Coalition on Government Information (MNCOGI). The guest speaker is David Cuillier, Professor of Journalism at the University of Arizona and co-author of the newly-published book, The Art of Access: Strategies for Acquiring Public Records.

Cuillier’s talk is “Digging Digital Docs: The Law and Practical Strategies for Acquiring Government Electronic Records.”

His book is filled with government record research tips – questions to ask, examples of request letters, and interesting real-life stories.   Fascinating pull-out “Pro Tips” by journalists and attorneys throughout the book are inspiring.

This MNCOGI session will be energizing for journalists, librarians, researchers, and citizen activists.  You’ll learn about where to look for government records and how to work with government agencies to get them (and never take no for an answer!). 

The details:

Digging Digital Docs: The Law and Practical Strategies for Acquiring Government Electronic Records

8 – 9:30 a.m.  (Doors open for coffee and rolls at 7:45)
Monday, September 27, 2010

WomenVenture  (map)
2324 University Avenue
St. Paul, MN  55114
(free parking!)

Quote from THE ART OF ACCESS:  “Just as Trump is in charge of his private company, we the citizens are quite literally in charge of our public companies – federal, state and local agencies.  Government employees work for us.  We pay their salaries.  As their bosses, we have not just the authority but the duty to make sure out employees are doing what we pay them to do.  If they aren’t we point them to the door.  That’s democracy.  Thomas Jefferson said our country is based on government “deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.””  (p. 21)

MNCOGI’s COGI-tations series returns! Monday, September 27 & Wednesday, November 17

Aug 19, 2010 | No Comments

Monday morning, September 27 (breakfast, time tbd)
Women Ventures Meeting Room, 2324 Univ. Ave. W., St. Paul, MN 55114

  • David Cuillier speaks on his latest book, The Art of Access: Strategies for Acquiring Public Records. He is the Society of Professional Journalists’ Freedom Of Information Committee Chair and teaches journalism at the University of Arizona.  

Wednesday, November 17. Two sessions on the MN Government Data Practices Act (MGDPA).
Minneapolis Central Library, 300 Nicollet Mall, Mpls, MN 55401

  • Morning session from 10:30-12. The fundamentals of the MGDPA led by Don Gemberling
  • Afternoon session from 1-2. Panel discussion on the impact of new technology on the MGDPA, moderated by Eric Magnuson, recently retired Chief Justice, MN Supreme Court.

Both events are free.
Breakfast provided on 9/27; box lunch provided on 11/17.
Hope you can join us!

MNCOGI received funding for both events from the NFOIC through a generous grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.