Minneapolis wants private, sensitive information from board of nonprofit that’s suing city

The City of Minneapolis wants to know the social security numbers, marital status and personal addresses of everyone at a small government watchdog group.

The demand is part of a lawsuit filed by the Minnesota Coalition of Government Information, known as MNCOGI, to get access to police disciplinary files that it says MPD is hiding.

MNCOGI described the city’s latest request as a clear “overreach.”

“I’ll let others draw their own conclusion about what might have motivated this at City Hall, but I can say that in 17 years of practicing law, I’ve never had anyone ask for my client’s social security number,” said Leita Walker, an attorney for the nonprofit.

In addition to sensitive private information, the city also requested the organization identify all members of the media it has spoken with and the substance of those conversations.

The lawsuit against the city dates back to right after the murder of George Floyd when MNCOGI asked to see complaints filed against MPD officers — including Derek Chauvin.

Under state law, complaints are only public if there’s discipline. The city’s position is that “coaching” is not discipline and therefore any complaints or policy violations that are resolved with “coaching” are not public.

The city has previously said that coaching is reserved for low-level violations, but MNCOGI says it doesn’t believe that assertion.

“If you care about police accountability in Minneapolis, you should care about this lawsuit,” Walker said.

The City Attorney’s Office defended its request for sensitive information in a statement saying that it “utilized language that it has used before in other cases unrelated to public records litigation.”

The statement also said it’s “typical” to ask for communications related to the lawsuit.

The dispute means the two-year-long legal battle is likely to drag on even longer.

“It is not standard to ask for social security numbers and very invasive information like that,” Walker said, “And it’s not standard to ask for information that has nothing to do with the case.”

After this story originally aired, the city attorney’s office sent another statement saying it informed MNCOGI’s attorney that it will amend its initial request for sensitive, private information.

The Hubbard Broadcasting Foundation, an affiliate of KSTP-TV, is a longtime donor and supporter of MNCOGI.