Chapter 23 Frequently Asked Questions
The board provides an official, efficient and free legal resource for citizens and government officials with questions about Iowa open meetings and records laws, and for citizens with complaints about alleged violations of the laws. The board is also one of the few such agencies in the nation with the authority not only to advise, but to enforce the state sunshine laws.
The board is authorized by statute to issue advice, or declaratory orders with the force of law, regarding the applicability of the open records and open meetings laws.
It can receive and investigate complaints alleging violations of the laws and seek resolution through informal assistance, mediation and settlement. If a complaint cannot be resolved informally, and the board has probable cause to believe the law has been violated, the board may prosecute the government body or official in a contested-case proceeding under the Administrative Procedures Act. The board can issue subpoenas to investigate complaints and prosecute cases, and it can also issue orders with the force of law to require compliance with the sunshine laws.
The board also will offer training in Chapters 21 and 22 to government bodies, disseminate information to the public, and submit an annual report to the governor and Legislature, making recommendations relating to access to government information.
The board does not have jurisdiction over the judicial or legislative branches, or over the governor and governor’s office. A complaint must be filed with 60 days from the time the alleged violation occurred or the complainant could have become aware of the violation with reasonable diligence.
Declaratory orders issued by the board, determining the applicability of the open meetings or records law to specific fact situations, have the force of law. Amendments to both Chapter 21 and 22 provide protection to government officials who rely on written advice of the Public Information Board, the attorney general or the government body’s attorney.
The board can assess damages, void action taken in violation of the open meetings law, and require a government body or official to take any appropriate remedial action. The board does not have the authority to unilaterally remove a person from office, but it may file an action to remove someone under Chapters 21 or 22, which include “two strikes and you’re out” provisions that direct the court to order the removal of an official upon his or her second violation during a term.
Any person, the attorney general or county attorney seeking to enforce open meetings and records laws can bring the complaint before the board, or the individual can bring an action in state district court, as under current law. If more than one party simultaneously brings an action before the board and in court, the court shall stay the ending resolution of the complaint by the board. A final board order is subject to judicial review.case p
A final board order is subject to judicial review. Iowa Code section 17A.19 and Iowa Administrative Code sections 497-4.25 to 4.28 provide guidance for seeking further review.
Yes, under Iowa Code section 23.7, the complaining party must file a formal complaint with the IPIB within 60 days from the time the alleged violation occurred or the complainant could have become aware of the violation with reasonable diligence.
Most of the files, documents, and recordings sent to or maintained by the IPIB are public records subject to release upon request. Some records could be considered confidential under Iowa Code section 22.7 or section 23.6(6).
Anyone requesting copies of public records maintained by the IPIB should contact the Deputy Director at 515.725.1781 or by email at email@example.com.