Archive of Events















COGI-tation on Data Practices issues facing the MN Legislature

On January 28, 2013, the Minnesota Coalition on Government Information (MNCOGI) will host a public discussion on Data Practices issues facing the 2013 Minnesota Legislature.  The Minnesota Data Practices Act is the state’s chief open government law.   Issues to be discussed will include the status of license plate scan data; whether citizen e-mail addresses held by government entities should be public or private; the extent to which personnel data about public officials should be public, the degree to which “criminal intelligence data” should be kept secret, and possible changes to how the Data Practices Act is enforced.

COGI-tations are free, public forums sponsored by the Minnesota Coalition on Government Information.

Discussion: Monday, Jan 28, 2013, 2-3:30 pm in MN Capitol Meeting Room 118

Presenter:  MNCOGI board member Don Gemberling will present MNCOGI’s positions on several issues that will come before the legislature this year.  Mr. Gemberling was the past director of IPAD, the office within the Department of Administration responsible for Data Practices issues.

Questions? Contact: Helen Burke, MNCOGI Board Chair at

A look at Cameras in Minnesota Courts Posted by: admin on Oct 16, 2012 | No Comments

The Minnesota Supreme Court is allowing cameras to record proceedings in civil cases for a test that runs through June 30, 2013. The Minnesota Coalition on Government Information is hosting a panel discussion to examine this experiment at its halfway point.

Minnesota news organizations hope that the test will demonstrate that recording equipment does not disrupt court proceedings, and can enhance the public’s understanding of what goes on inside its courts. They also hope that the experiment will open the door to expanded coverage of criminal court proceedings in Minnesota.

Panel discussion: Wednesday, Oct. 24, 11am-12:30pm in Room 10 of the State Office Building.

Panelists include: Seventh District Assistant Chief Judge John H. Scherer of Stearns County Ramsey County District Judge Margaret Marrinan Emily Gurnon, courts reporter for the St. Paul Pioneer Press Joan Gilbertson, producer for WCCO-TV David Unze, reporter for the St. Cloud Times

Moderator: John P. Borger, MNCOGI board member and partner at Faegre Baker Daniels

Minnesota CLE credits are pending approval

Questions? Contact Helen Burke, MNCOGI Board Chair at

Freedom of Information Day Award Ceremony This year’s ceremony included the presenting of the 2012 John R. Finnegan award to Matt Ehling, St. Paul-based TV producer, documentary filmmaker and writer, and a presentation by Amy Goodman, award-winning investigative journalist and syndicated columnist, author and the host of Democracy Now!.

Below are links to The Uptake video of the ceremony as well as inteviews with Ehling and Goodman. • Freedom of Information Ceremony PresentationsInterview with Matt EhlingInterview with Amy Goodman

A copy of the press release is available here.

St. Paul-based TV producer, documentary filmmaker and writer, Mr. Matt Ehling, received this year’s John R. Finnegan Freedom of Information Award from the Minnesota Coalition on Government Information (MNCOGI). Mr. Ehling’s award recognizes over two decades of work engaging Minnesotans in the civic process and helping them understand the political workings of our institutions. Two years ago Mr. Ehling founded Public Record Media where citizens can explore government documents and acquire the tools to pry open other sources of information.

Amy_GoodmanAmy Goodman is an award-winning investigative journalist and syndicated columnist, author and the host of Democracy Now! airing on more than 1000 public television and radio stations worldwide. Goodman is the first journalist to receive the Right Livelihood Award, widely known as the ‘Alternative Nobel Prize’ for “developing an innovative model of truly independent grassroots political journalism that brings to millions of people the alternative voices that are often excluded by the mainstream media.” The Independent of London named Amy Goodman and Democracy Now! “an inspiration”; placed Goodman at the top of their 20 Top Global Media Figures.

Star in corner copyGoodman is the author of four New York Times bestsellers. Her latest book, Breaking the Sound Barrier, proves the power of independent journalism in the struggle for a better world. She co-authored the first three bestsellers, Standing Up to the Madness, Static, and The Exception to the Rulers, with her brother, journalist David Goodman.

For more information about Amy Goodman and to find a local broadcast of Democracy Now!, please visit

COGI-tations: Discussion on Initiatives to Change the Public’s Access to Government Information On Monday, January 23, 2012, Don Gemberling of the Minnesota Coalition on Government Information (MnCOGI) hosted a discussion on initiatives in the next legislative session that could change the public’s access to government information. Issues included no longer requiring elected officials to comply with personnel section of the data practices act, requiring a six month delay between requests for the same data, and increasing the cost for copies of data. Concerns that government officials are too quick to turn to security classifications to deny access to public data were addressed. To find more information on what was covered at the meeting check out the following links:

On demand video from The Update –

Pioneer Press/The Uptake –

Star Tribune –

John R. Finnegan Sr., FOI Hero Award Winner for 2011 John R. Finnegan Sr., president of the Minnesota Joint Media Committee and longtime Freedom of Information advocate, will be inducted into the Open Government Hall of Fame at the FOI Summit in Providence, RI.

The National Freedom of Information Coalition (NFOIC) and the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) have selected John R. Finnegan Sr., former executive editor and assistant publisher of the St. Paul Pioneer Press, for their joint Heroes of the 50 States: The State Open Government Hall of Fame award for 2011.

The formal induction ceremony will take place Saturday, May 21, during NFOIC’s annual FOI Summit, held this year at the Providence Biltmore Hotel in Providence, RI, May 20- 21. Finnegan is past president of the Minnesota Newspaper Association and of the Newspaper Guild of the Twin Cities, and was chairman emeritus of the Minnesota News Council. He is currently and president of the Minnesota Joint Media Committee.

The above excerpt is from the NGOIC website.

COGI-tations: What Is Your Library Doing With Information About You? Data Privacy Requirements and Issues for Minnesota´s Libraries Wednesday, May 18, 2011, 4:30-6 pm Women Venture, 2324 University Ave West, St. Paul

Librarians have a long tradition of guarding the privacy of library users, and Minnesota law protects the private data of library users as part of the Government Data Practices Act. In spite of these protections, libraries are challenged frequently to release information on library users. Then what happens? Learn about real-life situations and how libraries have responded.

Nancy Walton, Acting State Librarian, will describe the types of data privacy questions that are presented to the State Library and what guidance is provided. Attendees are encouraged to come with their own questions and scenarios.

Funding for this event is through a generous grant from the National Freedom of Information Coalition (NFOIC) and the John S.and James L. Knight Foundation.

2011 Freedom of Information Day and John R. Finnegan Freedom of Information Award Ceremony Former WCCO-TV Anchor and MinnPost columnist Don Shelby along with former State Senator Don Betzold are this year’s John R. Finnegan Freedom of Information Award winners. The Minnesota Coalition on Government Information (MNCOGI) broke with its usual practice of selecting only one recipient this year, deciding to honor the significant roles both winners have played in freedom of information activities in Minnesota.

This year’s Finnegan Awards will be presented at a ceremony at noon at the Minneapolis Central Library 300 Nicollet Mall on Wednesday, March 16, 2011. March 16, is the birthday of President James Madison and is celebrated annually across the country as Freedom of Information Day. The awards presentation is free and open to the public.

Privacy vs. transparency? A public COGI-tations Wednesday, November 17, 2010 Minneapolis Central Library, 300 Nicollet Mall, Mpls, MN 55401

10:30 am – noon : Don Gemberling on Prying Open State Government with the Data Practices Act. 1pm – 2 pm : Balancing Citizens’ Rights in a Democracy panel discussion with legislators moderated by former Minnesota Supreme Court Chief Justice Eric Magnuson.

How do Minnesota legislators balance government transparency and the public’s right to privacy? How far should law enforcement officials be able to pry into the actions of citizens in the name of public safety? How can citizens be sure race is not a driving factor for police who compile lists of possible gang members?

MNCOGI wants to help answer some of these questions at a public forum November 17th. Join MNCOGI first for a discussion on how the Data Practices Act works and where it needs improvement with Don Gemberling. He’s the former director of the Information Policy Analysis Division for the Minnesota Department of Administration. He’s an expert with intimate knowledge of the law’s strengths–and limitations.

Then participate in a panel discussion on what changes are possible in the upcoming legislative session. Could Minnesota’s recently-enacted campaign disclosure requirements serve as a model for a federal legislative response to the Citizens United U.S. Supreme Court decision? Should state law protect public employees by keeping private income secret?

Former Chief Justice Eric Magnuson moderates the discussion with a panel of key legislators including Sen. Warren Limmer, Rep. Mary Liz Holberg and Sen. Steve Simon.

MNCOGI received funding for this event from the NFOIC through a generous grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

Digging Digital Docs: The Law and Practical Strategies for Acquiring Government Electronic Records Monday, September 27, 2010 8 – 9:30 am Women Ventures Meeting Room 2324 University Ave W, St. Paul, MN

David Cuillier, Professor of Journalism at the University of Arizona, spoke on his latest book, The Art of Access: Strategies for Acquiring Public Records. His book is filled with government record research tips – questions to ask, examples of request letters, and interesting real-life stories. Fascinating pull-out “Pro Tips” by journalists and attorneys throughout the book are inspiring. Additional information about David Cuillier can be found at Information about his book The Art of Access can be found at

Mr. Cuillier has graciously allowed MnCOGI to post copies of his Powerpoint and Handout so those unable to attend the presentation can find out more about this topic.

MNCOGI received funding for this event from the NFOIC through a generous grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

Fair Use and Social Media: A Primer by Paul Hannah Tuesday, June 29, 2010 4:30 – 6:00 pm Women Venture Meeting Room 2324 University Ave West, St. Paul (just East of Raymond) Event flyer

Confused about how and when Fair Use applies to entries on Facebook, Twitter and blogs? Paul Hannah, media lawyer, provides pointers on Copyright law for journalists, concerned citizens, bloggers and all concerned about Fair Use in online expressions. As a well-known Twin Cities media attorney, Mr. Hannah knows the law and can clarify it for those who may be intimidated, confused or overwhelmed by it.

Freedom of Information Day & Award Ceremony Tuesday, March 16, 2010 12:00 Noon – 1:00 p.m. Minneapolis Central Library 300 Nicollet Mall – Pohlad Auditorium – 2nd floor Event flyer

Keynote speaker~ Chief Justice Eric J. Magnuson

Presentation of the 2010 John R. Finnegan Freedom of Information Award to Reed Anfinson Publisher and Owner of the Swift County Monitor-News. The award will be presented by John R. Finnegan, Sr.

*** Podcast interview with Reed Anfinson about the importance of Freedom of Information (conducted by Renee McGivern) ***

Sunshine Week 2010 Sunshine Week Toolkit

Freedom of Information: Your Key to Open Government with Jane Kirtley, Silha Professor of Media Ethics and Law at the University of Minnesota School of Journalism and Mass Communications

Monday, March 15, Noon James J. Hill Reference Library 80 W. 4th St. Saint Paul, MN 55102 Event Flyer

Webcast – Building Transparency

Friday, March 19, 2010 – 11:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m. CST

Participants in past Sunshine Week webcasts have expressed a preference for viewing/participating from their own office rather than gathering for a group view. The link will be available 24 hrs. prior to the event at the SW event page.

Panelists include Norm Eisen, Special Counsel to the President for Ethics and Government Reform; and Miriam Nisbet, Director of the Office of Government Information.

2009 Summit of the National Freedom of Information Coalition Transparency in government is theme of National Summit meeting in Minneapolis June 5-6.

Early June access advocates from most of the fifty states will gather in Minneapolis to discuss the challenge of “protecting the public’s right to oversee its government.” This is the 2009 Summit of the National Freedom of Information Coalition. This year’s Summit, hosted locally by the Minnesota Coalition on Government Information, meets June 5-6 at the Marriott City Center.

The NFOIC is a coalition of coalitions. States approach the challenge of access in a variety of ways. Minnesota’s approach, defined in the state Data Practices Act, rests on an assumption of openness, i.e. information by and about the government is open unless specifically restricted. Other states take the opposite approach.

Keynote speaker for the national Summit is Paul Anger, vice president and editor of the Detroit Free Press. The Press played a key role in the controversy surrounding the former Mayor of Detroit, his firing of whistleblowers, and the text messages that exposed his lies under oath. The existence and implementation of the Michigan Freedom of Information Act was a key factor in the media’s ability to help the public learn the truth.

Several Minnesota speakers are on the Summit agenda. Minnesota speakers include James Shiffer, reporter and editor with the Star Tribune, Jane Kirtley, Professor of Media Ethics and Law with the U of M School of Journalism and Mass Communication, Joel Kramer, CEO and Editor of MinnPost, Mary Jo McGuire, former legislator and faculty member at the College of St. Catherine, Legislative Auditor James R. Nobles, and State Auditor Rebecca Otto.

The Census Counts! Why a Complete Count is Crucial for Minnesota Wednesday, March 25th, 2009 Minneapolis Central Library, Pohlad Hall, 6:00-8:30 p.m.

You won’t want to miss this exciting opportunity to learn about the 2010 Census! Join us for a lively community discussion where you will discover how Minnesota could be affected by an undercount in the next census, and learn what you can do to help.

Featuring: • State Demographer Tom Gillaspy • County Commissioner Peter McLaughlin • LWVMN Executive Director Keesha Gaskins • Marcia Avner of the MN Council of Nonprofits • U.S. Census Bureau Deputy Regional Director Sydnee Chattin-Reynolds • and You!

“The Census Counts!” is part of the State of Democracy Project, generously funded by a grant from the Joyce Foundation. Presented by LWVMpls, Hennepin County Library, and the Library Foundation of Hennepin County.

The right to ask…the right to know – International Right to Know Day 2009 COGI-tations Forum – September 10, 2009

Barb Frey, Director of the Human Rights Program in the College of Liberal Arts University of Minnesota – presenter notes

Sunshine Week webcast explores government secrecy One of the features of Sunshine Week 2008 is a nationally webcast panel and discussion of freedom of information issues. “Government Secrecy: Censoring Your Right to Know” will be satellite broadcast and webcast on Wednesday, March 19, Noon-1:30 CST.

The Minnesota Coalition on Government Information (MnCOGI) will host a local site at the Minneapolis Telecommunications Network, 125 Main St SE in Minneapolis. The MTN studios are in St. Anthony Main, just across the Mississippi from downtown Minneapolis. Attendees are invited to stay after the webcast for a brief discussion of Minnesota access issues and a tour of the MTN facilities. The webcast and discussion are free and open.

Afloat in the Wireless Pond Minnesotans reflect on living in digital days Saturday, March 1, 2008, 9:00-4:00 Northwestern Hall, Luther Seminary, Como and Hendon in St. Paul Agenda and Event Flyer

Afloat in the wireless pond is the whimsical theme of a unique conference set for Saturday, March 1, in St. Paul. Strategically scheduled just after 2008’s Leap Day, the conference offers a constructive use for that extra time, a convenient venue and an invitation to Minnesotans to spend some serious time reflecting on living in digital days.

Funded in part by the Minnesota Sesquicentennial Commission the conference recognizes the social and economic challenges posed by the Internet. Focus of the day is on the power of technology to expand access to the stories, the people, the changes in the land, and the prospect of enhancing Minnesotans’ participation in the decision-making process. Open discussions will range from transparency in government to information literacy, the right to know, privacy, the balance of individual rights and the public good facing Minnesota’s legislators, regulators and voters.

Keynote speaker for the day is Kenneth Brusic, journalist and editor of the Orange County (CA) Register. Brusic represents an industry struggling with technology in a very public way. Laura Waterman Wittstock, CEO of Wittstock and Associates, will remind attendees of the Indian legend of the seven generations that live in everyone.

The day includes personal reflections on the theme from the perspective of a poet, a teacher, an historian and others. Creative individuals who have used technology to expand access and participation will demonstrate the Minnesota Digital Library, the West Broadway Alive! Project in Minneapolis, historical maps of the state and the synergy between geography and history. Student participants in History Day will describe how they have delved into Minnesota archives and public records to uncover and share unique stories.

Sponsors are the Minnesota Coalition on Government Information and the Minnesota Independent Scholars’ Forum.

Digital Access – the other side of the coin… Featuring Catherine Settanni Wednesday, March 14, 2007 at 5:00 p.m. 2314 University Avenue West in St. Paul

Access to essential information collected, organized and made available – or not – by the government is increasingly shaped by technology. At breakneck speed government services are moving online, driven by multiple technology factors, including broadband.

As cities and towns move forward with their municipal network plans, advocates for low-income, new immigrant and novice technology users have sounded this alarm: Moving public services and information online, while both efficient and cost-saving, ignores the persistent barriers to technology use that exist in both urban and rural communities. Intractable barriers include limited technology literacy skills in underserved communities and access to affordable broadband services.

Recently, a coalition of non-profits and city residents secured the first significant community-managed benefits agreement as part of the Wireless Minneapolis vendor contract. As a result, other cities venturing into municipal networks have begun to emulate this strategy as one way to ensure that community-based technology access and literacy programs are developed and supported as essential, explicit and intrinsic elements of emerging networks – worthy of the same attention as the specific technology itself.

Catherine Settanni has headed the Digital Access + Equity campaign in Minneapolis that led to a strong community benefits agreement embedded in the Wireless Minneapolis contract. She is an activist for whom telecom and information access are inextricable and a tireless leader who knows how to move from theory to practical application.

This meeting is free and open to the public. For more information on the digital divide, click here. Sponsored by the Telecommunications and Information Policy Roundtable (TIPR), and the Minnesota Coalition on Government Information (MNCOGI) as part of Sunshine Week 2007

Second National Dialogue on Open Government and Secrecy – Closed Doors; Open Democracies National videoconference & Discussion of Minnesota information access issues Monday, March 12, 2007 Metropolitan State University-St Paul campus


11:30 Informal buffet lunch (complimentary)

Noon Videoconference webcast from the National Press Club in Washington DC

NPR Science Friday’s Ira Flatow will moderate the discussion. The first panel, focused on national issues and includes a representative of the Union of Concerned Scientists, Global warming whistle blower, Rick Plitz, Susan Wood, who quit her FDA job over the delay of Plan B and a rep from the National Coalition Against Censorship. A second panel will focus on state and local issues. Speakers include Bill Wolfe, Director of the NJ Chapter of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, and Mark Tapscott, Editorial Page editor of the Washington Examiner.

1:30 Minnesota issues and practices Donald A. Gemberling and Katherine Engler * * * Please bring issues for discussion * * *

Sponsored locally by the Minnesota Coalition on Government Information with funds provided by the National Freedom of Information Coalition.

Access Advocates Meet with Senator Don Betzold February 26, 2007, 5:00 pm Minnesota Council on Nonprofits, 2314 University Avenue West in St. Paul

Senator Don Betzold, chief author of pending legislation related to the format for all state government information (SF131), will meet with access advocates on Monday, February 26, 5:00 p.m. at the offices of the Minnesota Council on Nonprofits, 2314 University Avenue West in St. Paul. The meeting is sponsored by the Minnesota Coalition on Government Information (MNCOGI), the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits, and the Telecommunications and Information Policy Roundtable (TIPR), SLA-MN and ASIST.

The proposed legislation, though specifically related to preservation, opens the door to a broader discussion of the state “information chain”, a chain that reaches from collection to end-user access, from open access to protection of privacy – and all the links along the way.

This is an opportunity for stakeholders to learn more about the current bill, to discuss the need for comprehensive strategic planning, and to share perspectives on information/telecommunications policy and practice.

Senator Betzold, a DFLer from the Northwest suburbs, chairs the Senate Finance Committee-State Government Budget Division. He also serves on the Judiciary and State and Local Government Operations and Oversight Committees.

In 2006 Senator Betzold received the Peter S. Popovich Freedom of Information Award presented by the Minnesota Society of Professional Journalists. The award cited Senator Betzold’s “long and consistent work to foster open government during his legislative career in the Minnesota Senate

This meeting is free and open to the public. The office building at 2314 University is just a block East of Raymond on the South side of University. The #16 bus goes by the door; the #50 bus stops at Raymond and University. Parking is readily accessible east of the office building; enter through the east door and watch for signs.