Who is covered?
Who is covered by Chapter 21?
This can be a confusing area of the law, especially as regards committees, task forces or other sub-units of governmental bodies, and the answer sometimes requires an analysis of how the body was created and what its charge is. Iowa Attorney General's opinions, Iowa Supreme Court cases and advice from the Iowa Public Information Board have produced these guidelines:
- A governmental body is covered by Chapter 21 if it was created by statute or by executive order, or if it is a local board, council, commission or other governmental unit exercising policy-making authority. Consequently, a school board or city council is a governmental body covered by Chapter 21, but a non-profit organization or a quasi-public agency most likely is not even though it may receive public funds. (However, records related to the allocation of those funds generally are available from the donating governmentbody under Chapter 22, the public records law.) In recent years, the Legislature amended the Iowa Code to require agencies established under Chapter 28E and also the Iowa Association of School Boards to comply with the public meetings and records laws.
- Committees created by the boards, councils, commissions, etc., covered by Chapter 21 also are covered by law if (a) they comprise or their meetings involve a majority of the members of the governmental body itself, or (b) they are formally and directly created by the governmental body and exercise some policy- or decision-making authority. (The Iowa Supreme Court has said that policy-making “is more than recommending or advising what should be done. Policy-making is deciding with authority a course of action.” Mason v. Vision Iowa Board, 700 N.W.2d 349 (Iowa 2005)) In addition, under 21.2(e) and (h), advisory bodies created by the governor, by the General Assembly, by statute or by executive order to develop and make recommendations on public policy issues are subject to Chapter 21. In addition, under 21.2(e) and (h), advisory bodies created by the governor, by the General Assembly, by statute or by executive order to develop and make recommendations on public policy issues are subject fo Chapter 21.
- The Iowa Public Information Board has said that for local government, an "executive order" would mean creation by formal action of the governing body.
Finally, two other points should be remembered with regard to government bodies and committees:
- Even if a committee does not come under the provisions of Chapter 21, it may still hold public sessions. Closed meetings are not mandated.
- The correspondence, minutes, records, etc., of a government body or a committee generally are subject to the provisions of Chapter 22, the open records law, even if the committee is not covered by Chapter 21.