June 29, 2023

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

June 29, 2023

 

SOS attorney asks Judge to Order City to disclose withheld data

 

 

(Saint Paul, MN) Save Our Street (SOS) pro bono attorney Robert Cattanach filed a motion this week with Ramsey County District Court asserting that the City of Saint Paul still has not complied with several of the group’s MGDPA requests, despite Ramsey County District Court Judge Patrick Diamond’s order May 4th and a court-appointed facilitator supervising the search.

 

“Minnesotans have a right to access all public government data under MGDPA (See Minn.State. 13.01, subd.3),” said Cattanach. “The City continues to drag its feet on several searches we’ve asked them to do and is stonewalling on disclosing even public portions of documents being withheld. It’s obvious that they will continue to withhold data that should be made public until the Judge again gets involved.”

 

Two issues remain at an impasse, as stated in the motion:

 

1)   The City has no regular system for keeping non-email electronic records, so it asserts it doesn’t have to disclose them.

The City claims the lack of any filing system means staff employees can simply decide how hard they want to search and where – and that the public has no right even to understand what they did to look. That plainly violates Minnesota’s Data Practices Act.


2)   The City claims it can withhold entire documents based on “privilege” without disclosing even the public portions of those documents, or explaining why the documents are being withheld.

The City admits they are withholding documents based on “attorney-client privilege” but refuses to disclose the basis for that claim, the number of documents being withheld, or even the public portions of those documents such as the date, who it was from or to, or the general subject matter, all of which should be made available to the public.


“Minnesota law clearly requires that if a document contains classified or non-public data, the government entities must immediately notify the requestor, and certify in writing as to why the data is being withheld. None of that has been done here,” said Cattanach. “We ask again, what is the City trying to hide?”

 

The City successfully hid key documents from disclosure until after the City Council voted to approve the trail, and continues to hide documents as the Metropolitan Council is considering whether it should approve the proposed trail, and the City is making plans for proposed future spending. This illegal secrecy harms not only SARPA and SOS but all citizens who have an interest in open and transparent government.

 

To date, 3,200 people have signed a petition on savesummitavenue.org voicing opposition to the City’s plan (scroll to the bottom to view the running total: https://www.savesummitavenue.org/).

 

Read the SOS Blog for DPA summaries

The documents that have been made available to SOS volunteers demonstrate a pattern of preferential treatment by the City for a bicycle activist group, facilitated by Assistant City Engineer Reuben Collins and Public Works Director Sean Kershaw. Those documents can be found in a newly created blog section on the SOS website,

https://www.savesummitavenue.org/blog.

 

Last month at the City Council public hearing and vote, supporters for preserving the tree canopy and historic character of Summit Avenue packed the council chambers and lined up to give testimony. Here’s a short video summary of the highlights and why SOS continues to fight.

 

Next Steps

 

July 13

Metropolitan Council Parks and Open Space Commission reviews the Saint Paul City Council’s recommendation 

 

August 7

Metropolitan Council Community Development Committee

 

August 23

Full Metropolitan Council receives the advisory groups' recommendations and votes.

 

Send your comments to the Metropolitan Council and its advisory body, the Parks and Open Space Commission. All the contacts are on the website – scroll down to the Met Council section: https://www.savesummitavenue.org/contact-city-hall

 

About SOS (Save Our Street)

 

Save Our Street is a citizen group that seeks to educate and advocate for preserving the historic streetscape of Summit Avenue as a treasured St. Paul destination and a safe, tree-lined, multi-modal corridor for generations to come. https://www.savesummitavenue.org

 

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3275 petition signers and still growing.


ABOUT SOS (Save Our Street)
Save Our Street is a citizen group that seeks to educate and advocate for the preservation of the historic streetscape of Summit Avenue as a treasured St. Paul destination and a safe, tree-lined, multi-modal corridor for generations to come.

SOS Steering Committee Chair: Gary Todd Grtodd@comcast.net 651-470-4720

SOS Public Relations Carolyn Will carolyn@cwcommunications.info 612-414-9661