The Iowa Public Information Board
COMES NOW, Margaret E. Johnson, Executive Director for the Iowa Public Information Board (IPIB), and enters this Dismissal Order.
On May 13, 2020, Deron Stender filed formal complaint 20FC:0047, alleging that the Clarinda Community School District (District) violated Iowa Code chapter 22.
Mr. Stender alleged that the District failed to provide public records he requested on May 13, 2020. He alleged that the District responded to his request and indicated that it would be about two weeks before the records could be retrieved, reviewed, and released. Mr. Stender alleged that this delay was unlawful.
On May 19, 2020, the District responded to the IPIB and provided copies of the list of records requested and the responses provided to Mr. Stender. At that time, the District believed all records except for one had been provided. The remaining request could not be fulfilled as it required the creation of a responsive document. The District indicated that this was in progress.
IPIB staff communicated with both parties to determine the specific records at issue, as Mr Stender had more than one record request filed with the District.
On June 5, 2020, IPIB staff sent Mr. Stender and the District an email with the list of the requested records at issue in the complaint and asked for a status report on each request. On June 9, 2020, the District informed IPIB staff that the June 5 email was the first time they had seen several of the records requests.
After clarifying which requests from the original list needed to still be fulfilled, the remaining records were provided on June 16, 2020. One record, concerning the FY20/21 school year, cannot be created until next school year.
Iowa Code chapter 22 does not specify a time certain for release of public records. As noted in previous complaints and under FAQs (frequently asked questions) on the IPIB website:
While the Code states a delay under Iowa Code subsection 22.8(4)(d) shall not exceed twenty calendar days, the Iowa Supreme Court does not view this as an absolute deadline:
“Based on our review of section 22.8(4)(d), we believe it is not intended to impose an absolute twenty-day deadline on a government entity to find and produce requested public records, no matter how voluminous the request. Rather, it imposes an outside deadline for the government entity to determine ‘whether a confidential record should be available for inspection and copying to the person requesting the right to do so.’ We do not think we should extrapolate section 22.8(4)(d)’s twenty-day deadline to other contexts, when the legislature chose not even to include that deadline in other portions of section 22.8(4).” Horsfield Materials, Inc. v. City of Dyersville, 834 N.W.2d 444, 461 (Iowa 2013).
According to an Iowa Attorney General Sunshine Advisory Opinion from August 2005, “Delay is never justified simply for the convenience of the governmental body, but delay will not violate the law if it is in good faith or reasonable.”
The Court in Horsfield also lists several considerations for determining if a delay is reasonable:
“Under this interpretation, practical considerations can enter into the time required for responding to an open records request, including “the size or nature of the request.” But the records must be provided promptly, unless the size or nature of the request makes that infeasible” Horsfield Materials, Inc. v. City of Dyersville, 834 N.W.2d 444, 461 (Iowa 2013).
Iowa Code section 23.8(1) 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 was filed the same day as the record request was made. The District worked with the complainant and with the IPIB to retrieve and release the public records. This complaint does not fulfill the requirements of Iowa Code section 23.8(1).
IT IS SO ORDERED: Formal complaint 20FC:047 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 August 20, 2020. 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.
1. Mr. Stender submitted questions to the District on May 5, 2020, but did not request the records forming the basis of this complaint until May 13, 2020.
2. Mr. Stender submitted a second list of ten records requests to the District that included some of the same records as his first list of ten records at issue in this complaint. Due to the similarity of the lists, the District believed that the records requests were the same and worked to produce the records requested on the second list. IPIB staff’s June 5, 2020, email and June 9, 2020, phone call with the District clarified which records had not yet been released. Only the records on the first list were still at issue.
3. The May 13, 2020, record requests and responses are attached as Attachment A.
CERTIFICATE OF MAILING
This document was sent by electronic mail on the ___ day of August, 2020, to:
Clarinda Community School District, Chris Bergman, superintendent