There are many times when public bodies interview people for positions for a city, county, or school district. The positions can be for city coordinators/managers, superintendents, or even members for a commission of a public body or even the public body itself.
Recently, the Stillwater School District hired a new superintendent. An off shoot event with hiring of the superintendent ended with the Minnesota Commissioner of Administration.
The Stillwater School District asked the Commissioner for an opinion on a data practices issue.
One of the finalist's of the Superintendent search who did not get the position had knowledge that an e-mail was sent by an individual which he was the subject of. The e-mail was sent to the Board Chair. The not successful candidate asked to inspect the e-mail. This is the essence of the Commissioner's opinion.
When a job opening happens particularly a high profile position there are people who may want to comment on the job hunters. Specially, if they think the person is not up to par for the job. In those situations a party may communicate verbally. E-mail is quite a different story. When the Board Chair received that e-mail it became "government data" subject to the Data Practices Act.
It is human behavior, in general, if you do not get the job as Superintendent of a school district or any position you try to get an understanding why.
Was there something in the e-mail communication that could have had an impact on this person's candidacy?
The superintendent finalist may never know. The Commissioner ruled that the e-mail is correspondence between an elected official and an individual. Even though the superintendent candidate was the subject.
The Commissioner based this on that the Board Chair did not share the e-mail with any person. The School District in its request for an opinion stated, " The Board Chair did not disclose the email to any other board member, nor did he share it with School District administrators or employees. …" The law in question is 13.601, subdivision 2.
Did the Board Chair share the contents verbally with others? In interaction with other board members was there any verbal or written communication about any contents of the e-mail? Does the Commissioner's opinion deal with the issue when verbal or written comments based on the e-mail are shared?
The opinion takes the position the e-mail communication as a whole is private as long as it is between an elected official and an individual. Should this be?
If you are a candidate for a position with the government and a subject of a memo, an e-mail, or something similar should you be able to access the government data about you if the communication was sent by an individual to an elected official and not shared physically?
Was the Superintendent finalist deep-sixed?
NOTE****Elected officials do not include judges or legislators who are not under the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act