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April 23 >> District able to release unredacted separation agreement following state opinion
 
Burnsville-Eagan-Savage School District 191 received an opinion today in regards to the separation agreement with its former employee Tania Chance.

On Feb. 24, the district requested an opinion from the Information Policy Analysis Division (IPAD) of the Minnesota Department of Administration. The district, like all government entities that request opinions from IPAD, does so because it is the state agency with the statutory authority to issue opinions regarding data practices questions.

In good faith and based on legal advice, the school district redacted information from the agreement that it believed was private data. The district then voluntarily requested an opinion from the commissioner.

The opinion says that some of the redacted language in the separation agreement is public data. In accordance, the separation agreement was released on the district's website (available below along with the commissioner's opinion). Also in keeping with the commissioner’s opinion, the associated letters of recommendation will be released after the necessary redactions are made.

The opinion rejected the newspaper’s position that the school district must create data with additional reasons for the separation agreement, other than those set forth in the separation agreement itself.

Advisory opinions issued by the Commissioner of Administration are not like court decisions where parties can claim a “win” or a “loss.” The commissioner’s opinion accepts and rejects some of the positions of both the newspapers and the school district. That does not mean that either engaged in wrongdoing.

The commissioner’s opinion acknowledges that the current Legislature is working to provide clarity to the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act and specifically Minn. Stat. §13.43, subd. 2(a)(6).

The district is hopeful that the Legislature will do so. No school district can afford to release information that is later determined to be private data about an employee -- that can cost a school district hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The Commissioner provides a valuable service in issuing advisory opinions. The fact that so many are issued (almost 400 in the last ten years) is a testament to the complexity and ambiguities in the law, as well as the financial risk for privacy violations.

The district appreciates the opinion because it provides new guidance to school districts and the media.

Download the unredacted separation agreement
Download the separation agreement with redactions
Download the Dept. of Administration Opinion


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