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Formal Complaints


David Grussing/Emmet County Sheriff - Dismissal Order


The Iowa Public Information Board

In re the Matter of:

David Grussing, Complainant

And Concerning:

Emmet County Sheriff,  Respondent


                     Case Number: 17FC:0083                                 

                         DISMISSAL ORDER


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

On November 21, 2017, David Grussing filed formal complaint 17FC:0083 against the Emmet County Sheriff (Sheriff), alleging that the Sheriff violated Iowa Code chapter 22 by failing to release certain police reports and by failing to answer questions he posed concerning police investigations.

On October 4, 2017, Mr. Grussing requested that the Sheriff release police reports concerning possible criminal actions involving the city of Armstrong, Iowa, and city employees.  He also requested copies of any communications between the Sheriff and a city employee. This record request was forwarded to attorney Lonnie Saunders, who had been appointed special prosecutor on the Armstrong investigation.  The Iowa Department of Criminal Investigation (DCI) is also involved with the investigation.

On October 11, 2017, Mr. Saunders responded to Mr. Grussing, explaining that some of the records requested constitute a confidential record under Iowa Code section 22.7(4), “work product of an attorney, which are related to litigation or claim made by or against a public body.”  The police reports were confidential records pursuant to Iowa Code section 22.7(5) as peace officers’ investigative reports.

Mr. Saunders also declined to release any information about the investigation, citing language from Iowa Code section 22.7(5) that states that the date, time, specific location, and immediate facts and circumstances surrounding a crime or incident may be withheld in “those unusual circumstances where disclosure would plainly and seriously jeopardize an investigation….”

Mr. Grussing revised his record request on October 24, 2017.  He withdrew the request for communications between the Sheriff and a city employee.  He modified his other requests, asking for the information that would be released under Iowa Code section 22.7(5) instead of copies of police reports.

He added that he wanted information concerning the status of a Taser and computer, property of the city of Armstrong, that were being held as evidence in the investigation and wanted the return of this property.

On November 2, 2017, Mr. Saunders replied that he would meet with investigators to determine if any additional information could be released.

Mr. Grussing’s complaint was forwarded to the special prosecutor.  Mr. Saunders responded on December 6, 2017, stating that it would be premature to issue any information at that time without jeopardizing the investigation, as not all parties were identified.  He stated, “once we are ready to bring the charges, information that can be made public will be made public.”

An additional response was released by the special prosecutor on January 12, 2018.  He again stated his concerns that any release on the status of the investigation would compromise and seriously jeopardize the investigation.

Mr. Saunders sent a formal statement to Mr. Grussing on March 1, 2018.  The statement outlined the factual allegations that had been investigated and the charges that would be filed against an employee and elected official with the city of Armstrong.  

Mr. Grussing continued to request information concerning two other alleged incidents.  IPIB staff contacted the DCI investigator and the special prosecutor for this information.  Both have stated they are unaware of any reports concerning these incidents.

Returning seized evidence is beyond the scope of the IPIB jurisdiction.  Mr. Grussing will need to seek return of the city property through other measures.

The only remaining issue is whether the Sheriff should have issued a statement last fall with the date, time, location, and immediate facts and circumstances of the investigation or if the release of this information would have seriously jeopardized this investigation.  It appears that the statement might have been released earlier, although the investigation was highly sensitive and complicated. The special prosecutor was diligent in making certain that efforts were made to finalize the initial investigation so that the March 1, 2018, information could be released.  

Iowa Code section 22.7(5) offers little guidance for determining when it is appropriate to withhold a statement on an incident on the grounds cited here.  Rather than review each situation as it arises, the IPIB can direct staff to research and prepare an advisory opinion to provide guidelines on the proper use of this exception to disclosure.

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


IT IS SO ORDERED:  Formal complaint 17FC:0083 is dismissed 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 March 15, 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, J.D.                                                


Dated this _____ day of _______, 2018.


Cc:  David Grussing

       Lonnie Saunders, special prosecutor