In general, local government information, including information for a volunteer fire relief association, is covered by the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act. Access to relief association data depends to some extent on whether the data concerns the association’s Special Fund or its General Fund.
Most of the financial and investment records documenting Special Fund transactions are public records and they must be accessible to the public. In contrast, records documenting General Fund transactions need only be “open for inspection by any member of the relief association at reasonable times and places.”
In addition, relief associations most likely have membership files in their possession that contain personnel information on individual firefighters. Some of the information contained on the Schedule Form, for example, is considered personnel information. Personnel data is private data unless the law provides a different classification for it. If a relief association receives a request for a Schedule Form, for example, some data must be redacted (removed or covered up) before the form is released.
In general, audits, financial statements, and reports submitted to the OSA are public.
The OSA does not provide legal advice and this information should not be used in lieu of legal advice. Relief associations should contact the Information Policy Analysis Division (IPAD) of the Minnesota Department of Administration for more detailed information about access to public data. IPAD has the authority to issue advisory opinions on data access questions. Representatives with IPAD can be reached at (651) 296-6733 or (800) 657-3721, or by e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Published last in the June 2017 Pension Newsletter