Right to Access Public Data
The Data Practices Act (Minnesota Statute, Chapter 13) presumes that all government data are public unless a state or federal law says the data are not public. Government data is a term that means all recorded information a government entity has, including paper, email, CD’s, photographs, etc.
The Data Practices Act also provides that Lake of the Woods County must keep all government data in a way that makes it easy for you, as a member of the public, to access public data. You have the right to look at, free of charge, all public data that we keep. You also have the right to get copies of public data. The Data Practices Act allows us to charge for copies.
How to Make a Data Request
Lake of the Woods County requests that you make your request in writing to the Lake of the Woods County Human Resource Department or for Law Enforcement requests to the Records Division. You may make your written request for data by mail or email, using the County’s Public Information Request Form.
Your written request must include:
- That you, as a member of the public, are making a request for data under the Data Practices Act, Minnesota Statute, Chapter 13;
- Whether you would like to look at the data, get copies of the data, or both; and
- A clear description of the data you would like to inspect or have copied.
Lake of the Woods County cannot require you, as a member of the public, to identify yourself or explain the reason for your data request. However, depending on how you want us to process your request (if, for example, you want us to mail you copies of data), we may need some information about you. If you choose not to give us any identifying information, we will provide you with contact information so you may check on the status of your request. In addition, please keep in mind that if we do not understand your request and have no way to contact you, we will not be able to begin processing your request.
How We Respond to a Data Request
Upon receiving your written request, we will work to process it.
- If we do not have the data, we will notify you in writing as soon as reasonably possible. If we have the data, but the data are not public, we will notify you in writing as soon as reasonably possible and state which specific law says the data are not public.
- If we have the data, and the data are public, we will respond to your request appropriately and promptly, within a reasonable amount of time by doing one of the following:
- Arrange a date, time and place to inspect data, for free, if your request is to look at the data,
- Provide you with copies of the data as soon as reasonably possible. You may choose to pick up your copies, or we will mail or fax them to you. If you want us to send you the copies, you will need to provide us with an address or fax number. We will provide electronic copies upon request if we keep the data in electronic format. We will also arrange for you to pre-pay for the copies as necessary.
The Data Practices Act does not require us to create or collect new data in response to a data request if we do not already have the data, or to provide data in a specific form or arrangement if we do not keep the data in that form or arrangement. In addition, the Data Practice Act does not require us to answer questions that are not requests for data.
Lake of the Woods County charges members of the public for copies of government data. These charges are authorized under Minnesota Statutes, section 13.03, subdivision 3(c). You must pay for the copies before we will release them.
Under MN Statute 13.03, Subd. 3(c), the responsible authority or designee shall provide copies of public data upon request. If a person requests copies or electronic transmittal of the data to a person, the responsible authority may require the requesting person to pay the actual costs of searching for and retrieving government data, including the cost of employee time, and for making, certifying, and electronically transmitting the copies of the data, but may not charge for separating public from not public data. However, if 100 or fewer pages of black and white, letter or legal-size papers are requested, actual costs shall not be used, and instead, the responsible authority may charge no more than 25 cents for each page copied. If the responsible authority or designee is not able to provide copies at the time a request is made, copies shall be supplied as soon as reasonably possible.
- For 100 or Fewer Paper Copies- 25 cents per Page – 100 or fewer pages of black and white, letter or legal-size paper copies cost 25 cents for a one-sided copy or fifty cents for a two-sided copy.
- Most Other Types of Copies- Actual Cost – The charge for most other types of copies, when a charge is not set by statute or rule, is the actual cost of searching for and retrieving the data, and making the copies or electronically submitting the data.
In determining the actual cost of making copies, we factor in:
- Employee time
- The cost of the materials onto which we are copying the data
- Mailing costs (if any)
If your request is for copies of data that we cannot reproduce ourselves, such as photographs, we will charge you the actual cost we must pay an outside vendor for the copies.
The cost of employee time to search for data, retrieve data, and make copies is subject to change based on the clerk’s wage from the department the information is requested from.
If, because of the subject matter you request, we find it necessary for a higher paid employee to search and retrieve the data, we will calculate the search and retrieval portion of the copy charge at the higher salary/wage.
Cash, Check or Money Orders are accepted as a form of payment. Credit/Debit cards are not accepted.
General Requests: Checks can be made out to: Lake of the Woods County Auditor/Treasurer
Law Enforcement Requests: Checks can be made to: Lake of the Woods County Sheriff’s Office