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

Posted by: on 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

Posted by: on 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.

Don Gemberling is Co-chair of a New Work Group on Gang Databases

Posted by: on Jul 20, 2010 | No Comments

2010 marks the first year that the Minnesota Coalition on Government Information has been mentioned in a law passed by the Minnesota Legislature.  In Chapter 383, Section 6, MNCOGI was listed as one of the groups to be represented in a new work group convened by the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension to “discuss issues and laws pertaining to criminal intelligence databases.” Not only was Don Gemberling from MNCOGI appointed to the group, he is one of the two co-chairs. Additional information on appointments is found in this article from Politics in Minnesota. Here’s the text of the law requiring the work group.

 “Sec. 6. WORK GROUP. (a) The superintendent of the Bureau of Criminal
Apprehension shall convene a work group of stakeholders and
interested parties to: (1) discuss issues and laws pertaining to
criminal intelligence databases; and (2) make recommendations on
proposed legislative changes for the classification, storage,
dissemination, and use of criminal investigative data, including data
from other states, and for guidelines governing usage and collection
of criminal investigative data held by law enforcement agencies. The
work group shall be chaired by a representative from the Bureau of
Criminal Apprehension and a representative from the Minnesota
Coalition on Government Information. The work group must include one
representative from each of the following organizations: the
Minnesota Sheriffs’ Association; the Minnesota Chiefs of Police
Association; the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association; the
American Civil Liberties Union – Minnesota; the Minnesota Newspaper
Association; the National Association for the Advancement of Colored
People; the councils created in Minnesota Statutes, sections 3.922,
3.9223, 3.9225, and 3.9226; the Board of Public Defense; the
Minnesota County Attorneys Association; and the Minnesota City
Attorneys Association; and a citizen member who is knowledgeable in
data privacy issues. The work group must be balanced between law
enforcement and nonlaw enforcement representatives. The work group
shall not exceed 20 members, including chairs. In its discussions,
the work group shall balance public safety and privacy interests,
state policy according to Minnesota Statutes, section 260B.002,
oversight, minimization of discretion, and regulation of the
collection of these data, including the individualized criteria for
inclusion in a computerized gang database. (b) By February 1, 2011,
the work group shall submit an executive summary document to the
chairs and ranking minority members of the committees of the senate
and house of representatives with jurisdiction over criminal justice
and data practices issues. The document must summarize the work group
meetings and outline proposed legislative changes to implement
recommendations on which there is agreement. The Department of Public
Safety shall provide administrative support to the work group.”

Posted by: on Jul 20, 2010 | No Comments


IPAD Open Meeting Law Workshop

Posted by: on Dec 14, 2009 | No Comments

The Information Policy Analysis Division will present a half-day Open Meeting Law workshop on January 27 in St. Paul. The workshop offers a practical look at how public bodies in Minnesota can meet their obligations under the Open Meeting Law (Minnesota Statutes, Chapter 13D).

What: Open Meeting Law Workshop

When: Wednesday, January 27, 2010; 8:30 a.m. – 12:30p.m.

Where: Department of Administration Building, 50 Sherburne Ave., St. Paul

Cost: $75 per person or $60 per person for groups or 4 or more

For information and registration, visit www.ipad.state.mn.us.

New technology; the same laws apply

Posted by: on Aug 3, 2009 | No Comments

An article in the August State News magazine focuses on social media in government, “The New Public Sphere.” It includes a reminder section — “Old Rules, New Media Open Records Laws Apply to Government Business, Regardless of Outlet.”

Vendor Evaluation Reports Online

Posted by: on May 20, 2009 | No Comments

Many times web access is a vast improvement over paper sitting on shelves – not only for sheer accessibility, but in terms of how the information can be used. The Department of Administration has just released one of those vast improvements to a report that was mandated by the Legislature several years ago. Minnesota Statutes 16C.08, subd. 4(c), requires that upon completion of a contract over $50,000, agencies submit a one-page report, summarizing the purpose of the contract, stating the amount spent on the contract, and including a written performance evaluation of the work done under the contract. Previously, those reports were available only in print, in the Library, in the binders shown in the image to the left. Now it is possible to learn of agencies’ experiences with various vendors by searching online. Reports since March 1, 2009, have been posted, will be updated weekly, and can be searched by agency or vendor name. This is great progress.

Robbie LaFleur (originally published on the Legislative Reference Library website)

Wrong…not correct… A line-by-line review

Posted by: on May 13, 2009 | No Comments

See the posting below for Don Gemberling’s thoughts on the recently-released report, Accessing Government: How difficult is it? Comments on specific lines and sections can be found in this annotated copy. His comments are astute, even if his handwriting is sometimes cryptic!

Accessing Government: A copy with Don’s Comments

Robbie LaFleur

“The Public’s Right to Know”

Posted by: on Apr 27, 2009 | No Comments

An editorial today in the Minnesota Daily (the student newspaper at the U of M) describes two data practices-related bills in play at the Legislature. It closes with “At a public university, the thirst for knowledge and information ought not to be squelched for lust of money. It is imperative that Minnesota lawmakers land on the side of transparency on both bills, which would dangerously close the channels of public information if passed.” (More information on the “Tubby Smith” bill at the Star Tribune, “Legislators Debate Tubby Smith Act: Data vs Privacy.”)

Posted by: on Jul 31, 2008 | No Comments

First, I have a creative and motivated staff at the Legislative Reference
Library, and great colleagues in other offices at the Legislature. To a
great extent I feel like I hardly do anything and I get to bask in
recognition. (Please visit us!) I share your strong journalistic beliefs
in transparency and accountability in government, and the importance of an
informed electorate. At our Library we are committed to providing the
best possible information services to the Legislature in order to have
informed legislators, and to ensuring that citizens have access to
legislative information. I´ve been at the Legislative Library for over
twenty years, as I usually say, back in the time when I had to walk to the
Capitol next door to get a copy of a bill. All that time we have worked
to document statistics on the Legislature, track down all of those reports
required by the Legislature, and distribute state documents. Of course
during that time technology exploded, creating even more opportunities.
Since 1994 legislative staff worked to put all of the information
available to people who CAME to the Capitol online. That was accomplished
in about four years, and since then the amount of legislative information
and the ways to access it have never stopped improving. We feel strongly
about making information available today, and also 15 or 40 years from
now. In the Library we started a program to archive electronic copies of
state documents, especially those the Legislature requires. Because even
though a report may exist on an agency website now, the office might not
even exist in the future. We have created databases we know will have
wide interest. We have a database with biographical information on all
legislators who have ever served. We unveiled a database just this week
of scanned executive orders back to 1968. But I know that technology does
not equal transparency. For example, we are thrilled with the volume of
information that is provided by state and federal agencies. But the
information agencies choose to put online isn´t always the information you
need, and Web sites don´t always help you identify the agency staff person
who will have the answers. I am a board member of the Minnesota Coalition
on Government information (or MNCOGI), and we have a strong emphasis on
working towards open government information at all levels of government.
For over twenty years our group has given an annual Freedom of Information
Award, named after John Finnegan, on Freedom of Information Day. Recently
MNCOGI established formal nonprofit status. I hope you will check out the
website, at mncogi.org, attend upcoming educational forums, and
participate in the group. Thank you again!