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Halva v. Minnesota State Colleges and Universities

Court of Appeals of Minnesota

December 16, 2019

Tyler Halva, Appellant,
v.
Minnesota State Colleges and Universities, Respondent.

          Ramsey County District Court File No. 62-CV-18-3910

          Jared M. Goerlitz, Goerlitz Law, PLLC, St. Paul, Minnesota (for appellant)

          Keith Ellison, Attorney General, Kathryn M. Woodruff, Assistant Attorney General, St. Paul, Minnesota (for respondent)

          Considered and decided by Worke, Presiding Judge; Connolly, Judge; and Klaphake, Judge. [*]

         SYLLABUS

         The Minnesota official records act (MORA), Minn. Stat. § 15.17 (2018), does not create a private cause of action.

          OPINION

          WORKE, JUDGE

         Appellant argues that the district court erred by dismissing his claim for damages under the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act (MGDPA), Minn. Stat. §§ 13.01-.90 (2018), after concluding that appellant already pursued an administrative action under section 13.085. Appellant also argues that the district court erred by granting respondent's motion for judgment on the pleadings on appellant's claims under the MORA after concluding that the MORA does not provide a private cause of action. We affirm.

         FACTS

         In March 2015, respondent Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU) posted a request for proposal (RFP) for a professional/technical services contract- software for an online registration system for continuing education and customized training. The RFP included general selection criteria upon which proposals would be evaluated, and explained that proposals failing to address the RFP requirements may be disregarded.

         Four vendors submitted proposals, including appellant Tyler Halva. During a WebEx video meeting, the selection committee evaluated Halva's proposal and electronically highlighted Halva's proposal's cover letter using Adobe Acrobat Reader's highlight function. When the document was closed on the computer, the committee's highlights were not saved. The committee disqualified Halva's proposal because he failed to provide required information.

         In December 2015, Halva requested, pursuant to the MGDPA, that MnSCU provide him with the names of the other vendors that submitted proposals. On February 19, 2016, MnSCU responded to Halva's request and stated that the contract had been awarded to a vendor other than Halva. Halva then sent four additional requests for information to MnSCU. MnSCU responded in August 2016, but, because Halva believed that MnSCU's response was untimely and incomplete, he filed a data-practices complaint with the Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH) on September 20, 2016. After Halva filed the complaint, he received additional information from MnSCU, but ultimately, MnSCU did not send Halva information regarding his own RFP submission, including the highlighted copy of Halva's cover letter, because it did not understand his request to include data on himself.

         In January 2017, an administrative-law judge (ALJ) determined that MnSCU failed to comply with the MGDPA and ordered MnSCU to provide Halva a copy of his original RFP submission and a copy of the highlights made to Halva's cover letter if it had retained a copy. MnSCU provided Halva documents in response to the ALJ's order. But Halva objected, claiming that the data was insufficient because he submitted his proposal on a CD and MnSCU provided him a paper copy, and MnSCU determined that it had not retained the highlighted copy of Halva's cover letter. In response to Halva's objections, the ALJ determined that MnSCU was not obligated to provide data that was not recorded in physical form, or required to acquire particular software to create a permanent record of an electronic conversation or meeting.

         In June 2018, Halva filed a complaint in district court. In count one, Halva sought a declaratory judgment that MnSCU's contract with the winning vendor is "void for failure to comply with the competitive bidding requirements." In count two, Halva sought to permanently enjoin MnSCU from performing under the contract. In count three, Halva sought to compel MnSCU's compliance with the ...


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