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Public Record Media to host free public data workshop

WOODBURY— A St. Paul nonprofit will host free workshop on Minnesota's Data Practices Act later this month in response to changes to the state's open records laws the city recently proposed to legislators.

Public Record Media, an advocacy group for open records and government transparency, invites members of the public to their Freedom of Information workshop Thursday, March 22.

The event will educate participants about the state's Data Practices act and guide them through obtaining government records.

Founded in 2012, PRM offers several similar workshops throughout Minnesota each year.

Matt Ehling, PRM president, said the group usually aims to offer training and workshops in communities further away from the Twin Cities, but certain factors can call for events in the metro area.

The March 22 workshop, Ehling said, was prompted by a pair of items on a list of legislative initiatives the City of Woodbury approved January 24.

One item would broaden the scope of information agencies may require from people making data requests.

Another would allow the city to charge fees to inspect public records.

Current state law allows agencies to charge requestors for physical copies of their data requests, but bars fees to review the data in-person.

City staff cite overwhelming workloads and large requests being abandoned for the proposal, but Ehling said Minnesota outlawed inspection fees to ensure citizens could obtain that information regardless of their economic situation.

"It's going to shut out a potential number of people who might not be able to pay for copies," he said of the proposed amendment.

The workshop will take place from 6:30-8 p.m. Thursday, March 22 at the R.H. Stafford Library, 8595 Central Park Place in Woodbury.

This event is free and open to the public, but seating is limited. Attendees are asked to RSVP by calling Public Record Media at 651-556-1381.

Ehling encourages attendees to think of public information requests they would like to make in the future.

"We do this as an educational effort so people can get the information they need," he said. "We encourage people to bring ideas for open requests they'd like to do so we can show them how to do it."

If you go...

What: Freedom of Information Workshop by Public Record Media

When: 6:30-8 p.m., Thursday, March 22

Where: R.H. Stafford Library, 8595 Central Park Place, Woodbury

RSVP: 651-556-1381

More information about Public Record Media is available at www.publicrecordmedia.org.

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