Minnesota Supreme Court: Hennepin County illegally kept records from public

Hennepin County violated state open records laws by failing to comply promptly with a request for information on the sheriff’s use of biometric technology, the Minnesota Supreme Court has ruled in a case tracked by government watchdogs, law enforcement and the media.

In August 2015, open government crusader Tony Webster requested information about Sheriff Rich Stanek’s office use of high-tech tracking methods to identify faces, irises and fingerprints. Almost three years later, Webster still doesn’t have answers, but as of Wednesday, he had a victory from the state’s highest court.

The court faulted the county’s procedures for responding to records requests through the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act. But the court declined to consider the question of whether government agencies can refuse data requests on the grounds they are too burdensome.

The seven justices agreed that previous court hearings and documents revealed “substantial evidence of the county’s missteps and failures in responding to Webster’s request at every juncture.”

After the ruling came out, Webster said, “It’s really hard to be happy when I’ve waited so long for data that is public,” adding that the public nature of the data was never in dispute. “The issue is they violated the law.” Read more…