Data Request from American Transparency
Townships across the state recently began receiving a data request from a group called American Transparency, (Minnesota@OpenTheBooks.com ) requesting employee income and other financial information under the Minnesota Data Practices Act. The organization is a private company operated out of Florida, that collects government data for publication on its website. The group is engaged in a nationwide data collection operation.
First, remember that Minnesota Townships outside the Twin Cities metropolitan area are not subject to the State’s Data Practices Act because of its complexity and townships’ lack of full-time staff to comply with the Act. Townships outside the Twin Cities area are not required to respond to this request, but your township board should decide what, if anything, they choose to send.
Townships in the Twin Cities area that are subject to the Data Practices Act may need to respond, depending on their policies for the format or method of data requests.These townships should rely on their township attorney for guidance in complying with data requests.
Township are not required to produce any new data or compile the data in the format or method requested. Townships may send the data they already possess after redacting sensitive information such as Social Security Numbers, bank account numbers, home addresses, personal phone numbers, the deductions in any paycheck, or other information deemed to be not public.
Non-metro Townships may charge a fee for the compilation of data, including the clerk’s time to meet the request. Non-metro townships may ask the money be deposited in advance, with any surplus returned when the response to the data request is complete.