Part II: A look inside a system stacked against big-box retailers

| Feb 15, 2021 | Commercial Property Tax Appeals

Regular readers of our blog know we recently shared the first part of an ongoing saga about how portions of Minnesota government single out big-box retailers for unfair, punishing treatment in commercial property tax matters.

In the previous post, we shared the story of an Anoka County continuing legal education (CLE) presentation titled “Litigation of a Big Box Property Tax Appeal.”

Walmart had an understandable interest in the CLE materials. The big-box retailer submitted a request for a copy under the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act, but the county rejected the request, claiming the materials were “attorney data” not subject to disclosure.

The county eventually released internal emails about the logistics of the online presentation—but would not give Walmart a copy of the actual presentation.

 ALJ decision reversed

An administrative law judge (ALJ) decided to prohibit Walmart from seeing what had been plotted/executed against the world’s leading retailer (a/k/a an “easy target”), but the state’s Court of Appeals reversed the decision.

The appeals court noted that the Data Practices Act states that most government data must be shared with the public on request – but there are exceptions, including one for attorney data and the “work product” (documents) government lawyers generate.

Court’s decision

The court assumed that the CLE presentation constituted work product, but it held that when Anoka shared its materials with third parties (the 82 online viewers), “it clearly waived” the protection of the Data Practices work-product exception.

The appeals court reversed the ALJ’s decision and sent the case back for reconsideration consistent with its decision.

Anoka County has yet to produce the presentation despite being ordered to do so. Minnesota taxpayers deserve much better than that.