Data Access and Privacy Team

We are the team that helps the City respond to public records requests. Minnesota law gives the public and media access to government records. It also requires that the government protects sensitive data.

Who we are

Our team is part of the City Clerk’s Office. The City Clerk is responsible for the city’s legislative process, administering elections, and oversees the city’s data access and records management programs. In addition the Clerk is responsible for ensuring the city responds to public records requests.

Our team works with requestors to understand what data they are looking for and we work with City staff to determine what responsive data the city may have. We also review data to make sure any protected data is withheld.

Why these jobs are important

Public records laws are important for many reasons.

We help the City operate with transparency to allow media and the general public to watch over city operations. Many news reports note that they obtained documents from “a public records request” … that’s us! Government data is also useful to individuals, as well as academic researchers and businesses looking to leverage the value of the data.

We help the City make sure private data is protected. The City has a lot of information about people and organizations. It is created anytime someone: applies for a permit or a business license, uses City services—including health services, or interacts with police or fire. We ensure private information is protected even when other public information is released.

What we do

Team members help the City respond to public records requests, managing a set of requests. We receive about 4000 requests each year. Managing these requests involves working with the public and with staff in multiple departments.

We tend to specialize in two tracks: Processors manage the overall response to a data request, locating, collecting, and providing data (1-3 below) while Reviewers bring legal expertise, reading through documents to classify data and apply redactions (4 below).

  1. Helping people make meaningful requests. We are a City with 4,000 employees that generates terabytes of data. People come to us imagining making a request is like searching Google. It is not. Working with requestors to understand what they really want is important in order to plan an effective response.
  2. Working with staff across the City to respond to a request. The City is an immense organization that: maintains roads and sewers, provides water and garbage services, supports public health programs, provides emergency police and fire, regulates businesses, plans development and zoning, issues permits, inspects construction, manages animal welfare, and many other public services.
  3. Determining what responsive data might exist, where it may reside, and who to involve. Generally, the department that manages the data will collect and provide it. We manage the overall response and involve vendors, our IT department, or take action ourselves, as needed.
  4. Reviewing responsive data to identify and remove protected information. Requested data includes things like: contracts, police reports, or emails on a particular topic. Identifying protected information can be a challenging task—it involves applying the 200+ page Minnesota Government Data Practices Act and other state and federal statutes. We frequently encounter novel legal questions due to the wide variety of data that gets requested.

Join the team

People who excel at the job bring project management skills, attention to detail, a commitment to consistency and respect for process, a willingness to learn, deep familiarity with technology and legal principles, and dedication to public service. We work both independently and as a team.

Does this sound like you? Consider applying! Don’t be intimidated by the breadth of the work—you will be joining a strong team. You don’t need to know everything to start. In fact, every one of us is still learning. There is certainly never a dull day.