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Formal Complaints


Olson / Story County Board of Supervisors - Chapter 21 - agenda compliance, legally insufficient


4 October 2013

Lauris Olson
1705 Buchanan Dr.
Ames, IA  50010

RE:  Formal complaint concerning the Story County Board of Supervisors, 9/3/13 meeting, IPIB case number 13FC:0012

Dear Ms. Olson:

The Iowa Public Information Board met on October 3, 2013, and reviewed your complaint.   Upon review and discussion of the attached memorandum, the Board voted to adopt the recommendations made and dismiss this complaint.


Margaret E. Johnson
Deputy Director


By email only; no hardcopy to follow

September 27, 2013

Memo to the Iowa Public Information Board (IPIB)

RE:  Formal Complaint filed September 19, 2013, by Lauris Olson concerning the Story County Board of Supervisors

Lauris Olson filed a formal complaint on the IPIB website on September 19, 2013.  She provided 7 attachments to the formal complaint, including a seven-minute audio recording.  The complaint alleges that on September 3, 2013, during a regularly scheduled Board of Supervisors meeting, Supervisor Rick Sanders used “prerogative of the chair” to receive a report not listed on the meeting Agenda.  The complaint requests that the IPIB “issue a formal ruling as to whether the Story County Board of Supervisors…violated Chapter 21…”; “elaborate on the difference, if any, between a written and oral report, formal and informal reports, or any combination thereof; and “provide written comment outlining when and under what circumstances ‘prerogative of the chair’ can be exercised as it relates to Chapter 21 of the Iowa Code.”

After a full review of the complaint, the six attachments and the seven-minute audio recording, I reached the following findings:

      1. The Story County Board of Supervisors held a regularly scheduled meeting on September 3, 2013.  Item 12 on the Agenda is entitled “OTHER REPORTS”.  There is nothing further listed on that agenda topic. 
      2. On the August 27, 2013, Agenda, specific names and topics are included under “OTHER REPORTS.”
      3. The Minutes from the September 3, 2013, meeting, under Item 12, states:  “Sanders noted Drew Camp of the Ames Economic Development Corporation (AEDC) was in the audience and asked for comments.  Camp is the Director of Story County Outreach for AEDC.  He stated
      he has been attending community meetings and doing online work.”
      4. The audio recording provided by complainant confirms that Supervisor Sanders called upon Mr. Camp.  No motions were made or other action taken by the Board during or after his remarks.
      5. Following Mr. Camp’s report, the complainant addressed the Board during public comments.  She indicated the Board should not request comments from anyone not listed on the Agenda, and that she would seek review of the Board’s actions.


The Iowa Public Information Board (IPIB) is tasked with the oversight and enforcement of violations of Chapters 21 and 22 of the Iowa Code, concerning open meetings and public records.  The IPIB jurisdiction is specifically limited to questions and concerns under these statutes.  While a valid issue might be raised under the obligations and responsibilities imposed by another law or rule, it would not fall within the limited jurisdiction of the IPIB.

Iowa Code Subsection 21.4(1) outlines the minimum requirements for public notice of a meeting:  the time, date, and place of each meeting, and the tentative agenda of the meeting, “in a manner reasonably calculated to apprise the public of that information.”  The Iowa Supreme Court, in the decision KCOB/KLVN, Inc. v. Jasper County Board of Supervisors, 473 N.W.2d 171 (Iowa 1991), provided guidelines for meeting notice and tentative agendas.  The test for sufficiency is whether the agenda provides sufficient information to notify readers as to the subject matter to be considered.  The Court also stated that the standard for compliance was “substantial” rather than “absolute.” 

No action was proposed or taken by the Board during the impromptu report presented by Mr. Camp.  Supervisor Sanders saw Mr. Camp, a new employee, in the audience and called him forward to introduce him and request an update on how the new position was going. 

Nothing in Chapter 21 addresses ‘prerogative of the chair’.  The definition of the word ‘prerogative’ is ‘exclusive right.’  Normally, the Chair of a Board is the individual tasked with the responsibility, or exclusive right, to run a meeting.  There is no indication in any of the information provided by Ms. Olson that Supervisor Sanders’ actions in chairing this meeting were in violation of Chapter 21.


Iowa Code Section 23.8 provides two options for action by the IPIB upon receipt of a complaint, the second of which reads:
      “Determine that, on its face, the complaint is outside its jurisdiction, is legally insufficient, is frivolous, is without merit, involves harmless error, or relates to a specific incident that has previously been finally disposed of on its merits by the board or a court. In such a case the
      board shall decline to accept the complaint. If the board refuses to accept a complaint, the board shall provide the complainant with a written order explaining its reasons for the action.”

For the reasons set forth above, I recommend that the IPIB dismiss this complaint on the grounds that is legally insufficient and without merit. 

NOTE:  The formal complaint also includes a request for an advisory opinion elaborating on the difference, if any, between a written and oral report, formal and informal reports, or any combination thereof, and when and under what circumstances ‘prerogative of the chair’ can be exercised as it relates to Chapter 21 of the Iowa Code.  I further recommend that Ms. Olson submit that request separately, or that the IPIB agree to bifurcate this submission and proceed separately on the advisory issue.

Margaret E. Johnson
Deputy Director