Julie Becker/City of Dallas Center - Dismissal Order
The Iowa Public Information Board
In re the Matter of:
Julie Becker, Complainant
City of Dallas Center, Respondent
Case Number: 18FC:0016
COMES NOW Margaret E. Johnson, Executive Director for the Iowa Public Information Board (IPIB), and enters this Dismissal Order.
On February 28, 2018, Julie Becker filed this formal complaint against the City of Dallas Center (City) alleging that the City had violated Iowa Code chapter 22 by quoting a fee for record retrieval that violated Iowa Code chapter 22.
In particular she stated:
“I requested of the City Clerk of Dallas Center to examine a copy of the ‘preliminary line item 2019 city budget’ at City Hall without charge. This document was flashed on an overhead during the city budget meetings on Jan. 2 and 3 (meetings which I attended). The document was considered complete at the conclusion of the city budget meetings and I overheard the Mayor request that the City Clerk send/email a copy of the document to each councilman. I even informally asked that a copy be emailed to me at the same time as the councilmen, my informal request was denied.”
Her formal request for the record was made by email on January 3, 2018.
Ms. Becker stated in her complaint that she was told that the document was attached to a spreadsheet program and ‘housed in the city computer’, necessitating payment of a fee of $0.50 per page ($20.50) in order to examine the document.
She included a letter from the city attorney, dated January 4, 2018, that advised the City Mayor of the following:
The Mayor is not the custodian of the records. Any public records request “is to be made to the City Clerk.” (Ms. Becker submitted another request to the City Clerk on January 5, 2018.)
The 2018 budget was approved in March 2017 and is available on the City website.
The 2019 line item City Budget worksheets, presented at the January 3, 2018, City Council meeting, are in “tentative draft form and subject to change, which have not been reduced to hard copies on paper.”
Iowa Code section 22.7(65) defines these records as confidential until submitted to the City Council.
Iowa Code section 22.3(3) allows the City to charge a fee for the examination and copying of public records.
Computerized documents such as those requested cannot be emailed or downloaded without risking improper modification by the record recipient.
In order to view the records, Ms. Becker must first pay a fee of $0.50 per page for the clerk to download and print the requested records.
The City Attorney also mentioned that the City Clerk had contacted IPIB for assistance on the fee issue. IPIB records indicate that on January 4, 2018, she was referred to website information and IPIB advisory opinion 2015-01 concerning the ‘draft’ exemption.
On March 5, 2018, the City filed a formal Response to the complaint. In addition to the previous information, he referenced the 2007 City policy that allows the City to charge a flat fee of $0.50 per page for a record request. This fee is meant to cover both the actual costs of making the copies as well as the time cost for the City Clerk to retrieve the records.
Ms. Becker was able to get a copy of the records from another citizen who paid the fee charged by the City.
The City provided information to the IPIB showing that the records requested were released as public records as soon as the preliminary information was presented to the city council. This procedure meets the requirements outlined by the IPIB in previous decisions interpreting the applicability of Iowa Code section 22.7(65). The records were also presented for public viewing at a city council meeting.
In addition, the City documented that the actual costs of producing the records for this request totaled more than $0.50 per page. Therefore, the City did not violate the provisions of Iowa Code section 22.3(3).
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 does not meet all those requirements.
IT IS SO ORDERED: Formal complaint 18FC:0016 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 May 17, 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 May, 2018.
CERTIFICATE OF MAILING
This document was sent by electronic mail on the ___ day of May, 2018, to:
Ralph Brown, counsel for the City of Dallas Center