Chapter 21 Frequently Asked Questions
How, when and where must the agenda and notice of a meeting be posted to fulfill the requirements of open meetings laws?
The proper posting of a tentative agenda is governed by Iowa Code Section 21.4. Subsection 21.4(1) describes proper notice as including the “time, date, and place of each meeting” and the tentative agenda in a manner “reasonably calculated to apprise the public of that information.” This includes “posting the notice on a bulletin board or other prominent place which is easily accessible to the public and clearly designated for that purpose at the principal office of the body holding the meeting, or if no such office exists, at the building in which the meeting is to be held.”
Subsection 21.4(2) states proper notice “shall be given at least twenty-four hours prior to the commencement of any meeting of a governmental body” under normal circumstances.
Most Iowa governmental bodies interpret this to mean “at least twenty-four hours” notice, not twenty-four ‘business’ hours or twenty-four hour ‘continuously available’ notice. To require twenty-four hour continuously available notice would require Legislative action.
The Iowa Supreme Court touched briefly on this issue in 2013 in the decision City of Postville v. Upper Explorerland Regional Planning Commission, 834 N.W.2d 1. The Supreme Court ordered a case remanded to district court, setting aside a summary judgment order. In that situation, the regular notice was posted on a board away from the main areas of the Commission’s Postville office in a hallway to the restroom and some private offices. While not determining that reasonable notice requires a certain location, the Court returned the issue to the district court for further hearings or trial on the issue of reasonableness. The Court did not address the undisputed fact that the notice was only accessible from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. while the building was open to the public.
NOTE: While adequate notice does not require continually accessible posting or posting in more than one place, best practices suggest that the more notice that is provided, the less likely that notice could be successfully challenged. Posting on the inside of a glass door into the governmental building, posting on a website or community calendar, or at the post office are all ways to promote transparency in government.