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Formal Complaints


Steve Zimmerman/Greene County - Dismissal Order


The Iowa Public Information Board

In re the Matter of:

Steve Zimmerman, Complainant

And Concerning:

Greene County, Respondent


                     Case Number: 18FC:0010                                

                         DISMISSAL ORDER



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

On January 19, 2018, Steve Zimmerman filed formal complaint 18FC:00010, alleging that Greene County (County) violated Iowa Code chapter 22 by failing to release certain public records.

On December 18, 2017, Mr. Zimmerman requested public records from the County, addressing his request to the County supervisors.  The County also received records requests from Mr. Zimmerman on January 3 and January 12, 2018.  The requests were forwarded to the record custodian on January 15, 2018.  The County notified Mr. Zimmerman that the records from all three requests were ready for his review on January 18, 2018.  Mr. Zimmerman reviewed the records (566 total pages) on January 30, 2018.  He selected 141 pages for copying.

Iowa Code Chapter 22 envisions that public records should be produced promptly upon request.  There is no statutory guideline as to timeliness of a record release.  Here is the guidance provided on the IPIB website:

Typically, Iowa agencies provide access to records as soon as they can, and most record requests are routine. Chapter 22.8(4) provides for “good-faith, reasonable delay by a lawful custodian” in permitting examination of the record in some circumstances, including to determine whether the record is confidential.   A custodian is allowed up to 20 calendar days to determine whether a confidential record should be released, but such delay should not exceed 10 business days, according to the Code.  An advisory opinion by the Iowa Public Information Board on Oct. 16, 2014 (citing a 2013 Iowa Supreme Court public records case, Horsfield Materials Inc. v. City of Dyersville, 834 N.W.2d 444 (Iowa 2013)), said, "Access to an open record shall be provided promptly upon request unless the size or nature of the request makes prompt access infeasible.  If the size or nature of the request for access to an open record requires time for compliance, the custodian shall comply with the request as soon as feasible."

Given the number of requests in a short period of time from Mr. Zimmerman, plus the number of documents to be reviewed, the time between the requests and the availability for release does not appear to be an unreasonable delay.  If you consider that the record custodian did not receive the requests until January 15, 2018, the delay is reduced to three days, which is not unreasonable.

It would be beneficial for the County to develop a procedure for processing public record requests that could prevent the delay that occurred in this situation when the record request was not promptly transfered to the record custodian.    

Mr. Zimmerman raised other issues in his complaint concerning the County’s actions on a bridge project.  He has also filed at least five more record requests since the filing of this complaint.  He stated that he still wants answers from the county supervisors justifying their actions impacting his property.

Iowa Code section 23.1 limits IPIB jurisdiction to review of chapters 21 (open meetings) and 22 (public records).  There is no IPIB jurisdiction over the other matters disputed by Mr. Zimmerman.

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 18FC:0010 is dismissed as legally insufficient and, in part, beyond IPIB jurisdiction 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 February 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


Dated this _____ day of _______, 2018.


Cc:  Steve Zimmerman      

       Thomas Laehn, Greene County Assistant County Attorney