at 5:25pm today 5Sept07, call to tnelson at 651-292-1159 the recorded tel: must serve as the taped conversation with the humble reguest that the www.twincities.com reopen their request for St. Paul Police Impound Records, specifically on theInformation Policy Analysis Division Web Site agenda today 5Sept07 Item 60 to bear in mind Aaron Foster is the 830 Bargemanager of the Impound Lot re: Barb Winn Murder
Minnesota Department of Administration Advisory Opinion: 02-011
This is an opinion of the Commissioner of Administration, hereinafter "Commissioner," issued pursuant to Minnesota Statutes, section 13.072 (2001). It is based on the facts and information available to the Commissioner as described below. All public data the Commissioner relied upon to issue this opinion are available for public inspection and copying at the offices of the Information Policy Analysis Division, unless the data have been disposed of in compliance with the state Records Management Act.
Facts and Procedural History:
On December 21, 2001, IPA received a letter from Jeffrey Kummer, Projects Editor for the Pioneer Press. In his letter, Mr. Kummer asked the Commissioner to issue an opinion regarding the fee the St. Paul Police Department charges for copies of a database of all vehicles towed to the St. Paul Police impound lot from 1996 through March 2001. On January 8, 2002, after consultation with IPA staff, the issue statement was agreed upon. The Commissioner notes that both Mr. Kummer and Chuck Laszewski of the Pioneer Press have been involved in requesting data from the City.
IPA, on behalf of the Commissioner, wrote to William Finney, Chief of the City's Police Department, in response to Mr. Kummer's request. The purposes of this letter, dated January 8, 2002, were to inform him of Mr. Kummer's request and to ask him to provide information or support for the City's position. On January 18, 2002, IPA received a response, dated same, from Reyne Rofuth, Assistant St. Paul City Attorney.
A summary of the facts is as follows. In a letter dated May 22, 2001, Mr. Laszewski wrote to the City requesting access to the database containing information about cars towed to the City's impound lot during St. Paul snow emergencies from 1996 through March 2001.
On September 17, 2001, Michael Jordan, the Police Department's Public Information Coordinator, wrote to Mr. Laszewski. Mr. Jordan wrote:
...I now understand you want the data base to include data for all cars towed [from 1996 through March 2001]. You specifically requested data on [sic] car's make, model, license number, tow date, tow location, vehicle identification number and registered owner plus any other information logged in.
You indicated you could take the data in any number of formats, including DBF files and could take it on floppy disks. We can provide the public data explained below in a D-Based format on floppy disks.
...You have also indicated in one of those phone conversations you do not need the narrative data.
The Department can provide you with all the requested data and the data from the four field screens except data identifying the registered owner, which would include the name and address of the registered owner. The non-registered owner data is public data. It is the position of the Saint Paul Police Department that registered owner data is not public data pursuant to Title 18 USC (United States Code)2721.
Mr. Jordan then cited Minnesota Statutes, section 13.03, subdivision 3, and stated that the cost for a copy of the database would be $500 plus an additional $100 commercial value add-on fee.
Mr. Laszewski and Mr. Jordan exchanged additional communications, and Mr. Kummer then requested an opinion.
Issue: In his request for an opinion, Mr. Kummer asked the Commissioner to address the following issue:
Pursuant to Minnesota Statutes, section 13.03, subdivision 3, clauses (c) and (d), has the City of St. Paul sufficiently justified its charge of $600 for a copy of public data in the database for vehicles towed to the City's impound lot from 1996 through March 2001?
Discussion: When an individual requests copies of data of which s/he is not the subject, pursuant to Minnesota Statutes, section 13.03, subdivision 3(c), the government entity may charge the "actual costs of searching for and retrieving government data, including the cost of employee time, and for making, certifying, compiling, and electronically transmitting the copies." In addition, Minnesota Rules Part 1205.0300, subpart 3, provides that an entity, in determining a fee, shall be guided by the cost of materials, cost of labor, any schedule of standard copying charges, any special costs, and mailing costs.
In the case of this opinion, the City has asserted that because the database has commercial value, the City may charge a commercial value add-on fee. Pursuant to Minnesota Statutes, section 13.03, subdivision 3(d):
When a request under this subdivision involves any person's receipt of copies of public government data that has commercial value and is a substantial and discrete portion of or an entire formula, pattern, compilation, program, device, method, technique, process, database, or system developed with a significant expenditure of public funds by the agency, the responsible authority may charge a reasonable fee for the information in addition to the costs of making, certifying, and compiling the copies. Any fee charged must be clearly demonstrated by the agency to relate to the actual development costs of the information. The responsible authority, upon request of any person, shall provide sufficient documentation to explain and justify the fee being charged.
The City's position is that the actual cost of copying the database is $500 and that the commercial value add-on fee is $100.
First, the Commissioner will address whether the City's $500 charge for a copy of the database is allowable. As stated above, pursuant to section 13.03, subdivision 3(c), the City may charge the "actual costs of searching for and retrieving government data, including the cost of employee time, and for making, certifying, compiling, and electronically transmitting the copies."
Section 13.03, subdivision 3(e), specifically discusses data contained in a computer storage medium:
The responsible authority of [a government entity] that maintains public government data in a computer storage medium shall provide to any person making a request under this section a copy of any public data contained in that medium, in electronic form, if the government entity can reasonably make the copy or have a copy made. This does not require a government entity to provide the data in an electronic format or program that is different from the format or program in which the data are maintained by the government entity. The entity may require the requesting person to pay the actual cost of providing the copy.
On May 22, 2001, Mr. Laszewski indicated he could take the data in any number of formats, including "fixed-width or delimited text files, Microsoft Access files