Met Council Must Hand Over Bus Videos to TV Station

Minnesota case law summary by Attorney Richard Clem: MN data practices.

In the Matter of: KSTP-TV v. Metro Transit, Metropolitan Council . MN data practices

In 2013, two Metro Transit bus drivers were involved in unrelated accidents, and their employer, the Metropolitan Council, investigated. The investigation included downloading the contents of audio and video recordings from the buses' digital video systems. The TV station requested copies of the videos under the Minnesota Data Practices Act. The Metropolitan Council, the unelected board which oversees the transit system, denied the request on the grounds that the videos were nonpublic "personnel data" under Minn. Stat. 13.43. The station then filed a complaint with the Minnesota Office of Administrative Hearings. The administrative law judge held that the station was entitled to the tapes. The ALJ held that the recordings were primarily intended for "service and safety-related functions" and showed public spaces when members of the public were present. The ALJ stayed the order while the Metropolitan Council appealed to the Minnesota Court of Appeals.

The Court of Appeals agreed with the ALJ. It noted that such data are "not automatically converted to private data merely because the data are used for personnel purposes." The court also noted that the decision was supported by public policy. "A driver's actions are hardly private; how a driver performs his duties is highly visible to passengers, and even to nearby pedestrians and motorists."

For these reasons, the Court of Appeals affirmed the order requiring the Metropolitan Council to hand over the tapes.

No. A14-1957 (Minn. Ct. App. Aug. 24, 2015).

Please see the original opinion for the court's exact language.


Richard P. Clem is an attorney and continuing legal education (CLE) provider in Minnesota. He has been in private practice in the Twin Cities for 25 years. He has a J.D., cum laude, from Hamline University School of Law in St. Paul and a B.A. in History from the University of Minnesota. His reported cases include: Asociacion Nacional de Pescadores a Pequena Escala o Artesanales de Colombia v. Dow Quimica de Colombia, 988 F.2d 559, rehearing denied, 5 F.3d 530 (5th Cir. 1993), cert. denied, 510 U.S. 1041 (1994); LaMott v. Apple Valley Health Care Center, 465 N.W.2d 585 (Minn. Ct. App. 1991); Abo el Ela v. State, 468 N.W.2d 580 (Minn. Ct. App. 1991).

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