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Formal Complaints


Ashley Miller/Mason City Police Department - Dismissal Order


The Iowa Public Information Board

In re the Matter of:

Ashley Miller, Complainant

And Concerning:

Mason City Police Department, Respondent


                     Case Number: 17FC:0082


                          Dismissal Order

COMES NOW, Margaret E. Johnson, Executive Director for the Iowa Public Information Board (IPIB), and enters this Dismissal Order.


On November 14, 2017, Ashley Miller, the news editor with the Mason City Globe Gazette,  filed formal complaint 17FC:0082, alleging that the Mascon City Police Department (Department) violated Iowa Code chapter 22.  Specifically, she stated that the Department failed to release these “details” from a November 7, 2017,  law enforcement criminal investigation:


  1. The call log related to a welfare check on a residence that led police to discover two bodies in a Mason City home Nov.7


  1. “Immediate facts and circumstances” relating to the case, such as:

    1. When did the crime occur?

    2. Who called law enforcement?  When?

    3. What prompted the welfare check?

    4. Was a weapon(s) recovered?

    5. Were there single or multiple stab wounds?


In a correspondence dated November 9, 2017, David Mayberry, Editor of the Mason City Globe Gazette stated that the answers to these questions were necessary to fulfill the requirements of Iowa Code section 22.7(5), which requires that certain information from peace officers’ investigative reports, “the date, time, specific location, and immediate facts and circumstances surrounding a crime”, must be released “except in those unusual circumstances where disclosure would plainly and seriously jeopardize an investigation or pose a clear and present danger to the safety of an individual.”


On November 8, 2017, the Department released a four paragraph statement disclosing information about the discovery of two potential homicide victims at a certain address on November 7, 2017.  (See Exhibit 1)  The press release provided the date, time, and specific location of the double homicide.  It also disclosed the arrest and charging of the named suspect, as well as the law enforcement activity that lead to the arrest.


Police Chief Jeff Brinkley informed Mr. Mayberry on November 9, 2017, that because the investigation is ongoing, no additional information would be released.  He also noted that the November 8, 2017, press release provided the immediate facts and circumstances of the incident.


On November 29, 2017, the city attorney forwarded a response to the complaint.  (See Exhibit 2)  The response noted that the November 8, 2017, press release provided the required information pursuant to Iowa Code section 22.7(5), adding that they “should not be required to release to the public the specific details of alleged criminal actions prior to the criminal trial.”  The response continued:


“Forcing the release of such information prior to a public trial would clearly and seriously jeopardize the investigation and prosecution of any alleged criminal behavior….”


The Iowa Supreme Court has held that law enforcement investigation files are exempt from disclosure during an ongoing investigation of a serious crime State of Iowa ex rel. Shanahan v. Iowa District Court for Iowa County, 356 N.W.2d 523 (Iowa 1984).  No party should be allowed to examine officers, investigators, or files prior to a public trial outside of the applicable criminal rules of procedure.”


It is highly likely that the release of the information requested could easily seriously jeopardize the prosecution of this high profile double homicide.  Premature disclosure of trial evidence could also compromise the accused’s rights to a fair trial.  Iowa Code section 22.7(5) limits the release of any information when such release would “would plainly and seriously jeopardize an investigation….”  The November 8, 2017, statement provided the immediate facts and circumstances of the crime or incident.


Iowa Code section 23.8 requires that a complaint be within the IPIB’s jurisdiction, appear legally sufficient, and could have merit before the IPIB accepts a complaint.   This complaint is not legally sufficient.


IT IS SO ORDERED:  Formal complaint 17FC:0082 is dismissed as legally insufficient pursuant to Iowa Code section 23.8(2) and Iowa Administrative Rule 497-2.1(2)(b).


Pursuant to Iowa Administrative Rule 497-2.1(3), the IPIB may “delegate acceptance or dismissal of a complaint to the executive director, subject to review by the board.”  The IPIB will review this Order on January 18, 2018.  Pursuant to IPIB rule 497-2.1(4), the parties will be notified in writing of its decision.


By the IPIB Executive Director



Margaret E. Johnson


Dated this ____ day of _________, 2018.




This document was sent by electronic mail on the ___ day of ________, to:


Ashley Miller

Police Chief, Mason City Police Department

Randall E. Nielsen, attorney for Mason City Police Department