The Star Tribune raps Minneapolis City Council member Alondra Cano on the knuckles for doxing her constituents who expressed disapproval of her participation in the Black Lives Matter action against the Mall of America and the Lindbergh/Humphrey terminals at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. The Star Tribune editorial nevertheless asserts a point I also made in passing on Cano’s behavior:
In resending Dent’s and others’ contact information, Cano didn’t break any privacy rules. In fact, the city’s online council contact form includes this disclaimer: “Information you provide is subject to the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act. This law classifies certain information as available to the public on request.”
That means City Council members can make correspondence public under Minnesota public records laws.
The editorial reiterates the point in its concluding sentences: “The council member didn’t violate any laws. But she did exercise poor judgment.”
“Poor judgment” expresses mild disapproval of Cano’s conduct. Cano’s conduct, however, is that of a bully in a bubble. Her conduct is frankly outrageous and her defense of it blatantly dishonest. Her defense compounds her offense. She owes her constituents a profound apology. This woman is not fit to hold public office. Her conduct at the least merits frank condemnation.
Is her conduct legal, as the Star Tribune asserts? On second thought, that isn’t clear to me. The Star Tribune’s assertion of legality doesn’t cut it. It is purely conclusory. It does not make out how the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act authorizes what Cano did.
The Government Data Practices Act is a complicated Minnesota law enacted at Minn. Stat. Chapter 13. Applicable provision of the City of Minneapoli’s Code of Ethics are enacted in the Code of Ordinances at section 15.10 et seq.
This is a brief exploration of the issues intended to deepen the requisite analysis obscured by the Star Tribune editorial. I am not expert in the laws, but I can tell you that the Star Tribune’s editorial judgment is inadequate to the issues.
The Government Data Practices Act provides that that “[p]rivate data on individuals” are data made by statute or federal law applicable to the data: (a) not public; and (b) accessible to the individual subject of those data and that “[c]orrespondence between individuals and elected officials is private data on individuals, but may be made public by either the sender or the recipient[.]”
The notification quoted by the Star Tribune editorial states: “Information you provide is subject to the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act. This law classifies certain information as available to the public on request.” The implication is that there is limited protection for sending “data” to a government representative. No warning is given to constituents concerning disclosure of the contact information required for submission of comments. The notification does not indicate what information is available to the public upon request. Cano herself did not release the information to the public upon request.
Section 13.04, Subd. 2 of the Government Data Practices Act provides: “An individual asked to supply private or confidential data concerning the individual shall be informed of: (a) the purpose and intended use of the requested data within the collecting government entity; (b) whether the individual may refuse or is legally required to supply the requested data; (c) any known consequence arising from supplying or refusing to supply private or confidential data; and (d) the identity of other persons or entities authorized by state or federal law to receive the data[.]” It is not apparent that Cano’s constituents received any such warning.
The contact information that Cano disseminated derived from a Minneapolis data network and possibly used a government network or server to transmit the information on her personal campaign’s Twitter account. Under the Minneapolis City Code of Ordinances: “We do not use our positions to gain privileges or special treatment and do not use public property or personnel for private or personal purposes” (section 15.20) and “We act honestly, fairly, and openly so that others can rely in good faith on our words and actions. We do not engage in or tolerate any act of discrimination, retaliation, harassment or abuse. We maintain and respect confidentiality and decide all matters based on their merits, free from improper influences” (section 15.130).
Cano to the contrary notwithstanding, her behavior is rather obviously in the nature of “retaliation,” “harassment” and “abuse.” Disseminating her constituents’ personal contact information for her petty political purposes may be unauthorized by Minnesota’s Government Data Practices Act and arguably violates Minneapolis ordinances as well.