Wednesday, August 24, 2011

No more public info on who built Planned Parenthood What's Next?

An update from a past post. The City of St Paul went to the Commissioner of Minnesota's Department of Administration to have specific data on who's constructing the new Planned Parenthood building be secret. The Commissioner issued an opinion.

St Paul's Department of Safety and Inspection (DSI) has been relying on the opinion to keep the identity of subcontractor's, suppliers, and of the like away from the public, but only for the architectural file.

They have taken it one step further.  DSI has white washed the names of companies and businesses from the general permit filings from their website and databases which the public can see.  The names of subcontractors and suppliers were on it two weeks ago. No more.

If you put in the address where the building is being built you will see general words where a business or companies name would be.  Flannery Construction is listed as being the overall project contractor per City Ordinance.

As I have stated previously I question the broadness of the Commissioner's opinion and the interpretation by the City of St Paul.

Planned Parenthood and the City of St Paul indicated they want names secret because of threats and boycott campaigns.  What will the next step be? If a company receives threats and reports it to the police will that file become secret.  Information such as request of service and incident data has always been public

I have never seen before a broadness, sweep, and interpretation of an opinion that makes public data in this way so secret  Are facts or politics driving the opinion and the interpretation of it?

I spoke with Don Gemberling, well known expert on the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act, how St Paul erased the identities of contractors.  His immediate response was "Did they seek the approval of the records disposition panel?"  The records disposition panel is a entity that gives approval to destroy official government records.  Is electronic permit data on the website an official record which documents an action by government.  Did the City of St Paul destroy an official record in violation of law?

The opinion and interpretation has been described by a number of people who are involved with open government as terrible, horrible, and possibly bizarre.  As a person to me stated the Legislature does not intend absurd results.  Is this though what's happening with the opinion and interpretation of it?

The use of "security information" to deny the public access to public data is becoming a new phenomena with government in Minnesota.  There has never been an oversight hearing on the opinion process since that law was created 18 years ago. 

I encourage the Legislature to take action.

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