Park Board to public data requests: nothing to see here, folks

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The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board has told residents who requested public data that at least two top staffers — superintendent Jon Gurban and general manager Don Siggelkow — now make a policy of regularly deleting their e-mail correspondence.

“I don’t know anything about that,” park board president Tom Nordyke tells the Minnesota Monitor. “I don’t think we get to just decide when we delete e-mails.” Nordyke says he assumes staff is familiar with legal requirements for preserving data, and adds that the board had hired a staff person to handle data requests.

“Don [Siggelkow] considers his e-mails transitory and deletes them,” wrote MPRB Administrative Services Coordinator Beth Broich in an April 14 e-mail to Arlene Fried, a co-founder of Minneapolis Parkwatch, whose complaints about lack of compliance with the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act during the park board’s “open time” last year got shut down by then-President Jon Olson until the ACLU-MN intervened. In messages sent April 18 to another resident, Edna Brazaitis, Broich said the superintendent also deletes his e-mail: “Pursuant to our Records Retention Schedule, approved by the State of Minnesota, our employees are not required to keep e-mail communications. It is up to each staff person whether they keep e-mails, and Mr. Siggelkow and Mr. Gurban do not.” The park board’s records retention policy permits destruction of “transitory messages, e-mail or phone messages of short-term interest which are considered incidental and non-vital correspondence.”

Policy or not, the park board’s practices may run afoul of state laws. The park board administration has been sparring with members of Parkwatch and other residents for more than a year over the park board’s compliance with state data practices laws — including the “duty of each agency, and of its chief administrative officer, to carefully protect and preserve government records from deterioration, mutilation, loss, or destruction.”

Disclaimer: The reporter is a member of and has served as spokesperson for Friends of the Riverfront, a citizens group that has taken the MPRB to court and of which Edna Brazaitis, one of the citizens mentioned above, is president.