Alex Yakobson/Ames Community School District - Acceptance Order
The Iowa Public Information Board
In re the Matter of:
Alex Yakobson, Complainant
Ames Community School District, Respondent
Case Number: 19FC:0072
Revised Acceptance Order
COMES NOW Margaret E. Johnson, Executive Director for the Iowa Public Information Board (IPIB), and enters this Revised Acceptance Order.
Alex Yakobson filed formal complaint 19FC:0072 on June 21, 2019. He alleged that the Ames Community School District (District) violated Iowa Code chapter 22 by failing to release records he requested.
Mr. Yakobson sent an email to the attorney for the District on June 17, 2019. In that email he stated:
Dear Ms Beenken
For few years i try to get Information who's driving our school buses.
I believe this Drivers provide public serves pay by public money .
Generally in human transportation we can see license and ask driver information
even in taxi and privet bus companies we can see license and ask driver information
But i strangle to get it in Ames school district.
Could you please provide me tool/option i able to get license and ask driver information
Thank you ahead
On June 18, 2019, the school attorney responded to his email and told him that she was not his attorney and was not the lawful custodian for District records. She informed him that record requests should be directed to the District and addressed to Darcy Cosens. She added that drivers’ licenses are not public records and “likely not maintained by the school district, anyway.” The District contracts with a private company for transportation; therefore, the drivers are not District employees.
After filing this complaint, Mr. Yakobson reported that he had contacted the private business to request this record and did not receive a response. He scheduled a meeting at the IPIB office for Friday, June 28, 2019, but he did not attend the meeting.
The District requested additional time to respond to this complaint. On July 31, 2019, counsel for the District supplemented its response. In this response, she notes that Mr. Yakobsen filed his complaint on June 21, 2019, but listed “07/21/2019” as the date of the violation. That appears to be a typographical mistake in filling out the IPIB form.
Counsel also stated that the June 17, 2019, record request was sent to her and not to the record custodian for the school. She requests that the IPIB dismiss the complaint because it was improperly filed. “The IPIB should not accept complaints when the government agency never received - and thus never refused - a complaint.”
This response also states that if Mr. Yakobson does file a record request for a list of bus drivers, he will again be told that the District does not maintain such records. As of the date of this Order, the list has not been provided to him.
On July 3, 2019, the Iowa Court of Appeals issued a decision on a public records issue, Diercks v. The City of Bettendorf, Iowa, and Kristine Stone, No. 18-1068. This case involved a request for public records consisting of fee statements submitted by an attorney representing the City’s insurance provider (ICAP, a government risk pool) in litigation. As part of a motion for summary judgment, the City claimed that the City was under no obligation to produce records not in its possession.
In reversing and remanding the district court decision, the Court of Appeals stated: “We look to whether the records requested are ‘of or belonging to’ a covered governmental body under section 22.1, or whether records are held by a nongovernmental body with which the government body has contracted ‘to perform any of its duties of functions’ under section 22.2(2).” (Page 13, 14)
The Court of Appeals continued: “Because we conclude ICAP is performing a government function by virtue of its contract with the City, as specifically applied to the facts of this case, its records are ‘public records’ subject to examination.” (Page 19)
Student transportation would reasonably appear to be a significant government function of a school district. It would appear, therefore, that the records sought by Mr. Yakobson are public records. To deny access to these records could be a violation of Chapter 22, specifically Iowa Code section 22.2(2).
Requiring Mr. Yakobson to refile his record request when the District has already determined that it will not take any steps to acquire and release the requested record would just delay a review of any obligation the District may have to fulfill his record request.
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 meets those requirements.
IT IS SO ORDERED: Formal complaint 19FC:0072 is accepted pursuant to Iowa Code section 23.8(1) and Iowa Administrative Rule 497-2.1(2)(a). Parties are directed to work with IPIB staff to reach an informal resolution pursuant to Iowa Code section 23.9.
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 August 15, 2019. 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.
CERTIFICATE OF MAILING
This document was sent by electronic mail on the ___ day of August, 2019, to:
Katherine Beenken, legal counsel
The district court granted summary judgment on the grounds that the records were not public records. The Court of Appeals remanded the case for further proceedings on the issue of whether the records are public records, as well as to the City’s claims of attorney-client privilege and exemption.