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 June 5, 2020, Ccofbcjoe filed formal complaint 20FC:0056, alleging that the Butler County Board of Supervisors (Board) violated Iowa Code chapter 21.
Ccofbcjoe alleged two violations:
On April 7, 2020, the Board did not post an agenda on the website. After the meeting officially ended, the Board continued to discuss the upcoming public hearing scheduled for April 13, 2020.
On April 21, 2020, the Board held a closed session pursuant to Iowa Code section 21.5(1)(c) to discuss a recent audit. He alleged this does not meet the requirement for pending or imminent litigation. Following the closed session, the public was not allowed to rejoin the meeting.
On June 15, 2020, the Butler County attorney responded to the complaint:
While the Courthouse has been closed, meeting agendas have been posted on the website. Due to technical issues while the website was being made ADA compliant, the agenda for the April 7, 2020, meeting could not be posted on the website. However, the notice and agenda was posted on the courthouse door, visible to the outside. Counsel also stated that there was no meeting subsequent to the properly posted Board meeting. There was some discussion about the importance of everyone being on time for the next meeting, but no deliberation or action.
The county attorney was present during the April 21, 2020, closed session and advised the Board on how to conduct the closed session. The closed session was proper due to the need for a response to the audit to avoid litigation. The Board realized after the public left the open meeting that there was no way to notify the public when the closed session ended. In fact, some members of the public remained on the line and accessed the closed session as the same telephone number was used for the open and closed sessions.
The county attorney stated that if future closed sessions are held, the Board will use a separate call in number for the closed session to avoid what happened at the April 21, 2020, meeting. The minutes for this meeting indicate that upon return to open session, a vote was taken to authorize a counter offer to the State Auditor. The meeting was then adjourned.
IPIB staff reviewed the agendas and minutes for the meetings in question. These records substantiate the statements made by the Board. In addition, a recording of the conversations that occurred after adjournment was submitted and reviewed by IPIB staff. The recording confirmed that the discussion involved the logistics for the next meeting and information to a member of the press on how Board documents could be obtained.
Iowa Code section 21.4(1)(a) requires the posting of the notice and tentative agenda “on a bulletin board or other prominent place which is easily accessible to the public...at the principal office of the body holding the meeting….” Iowa law does not require posting to a website. The posting of the April 7, 2020, meeting agenda did not violate Iowa Code chapter 21.
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 does not fulfill the requirements of Iowa Code section 23.8(1).
IT IS SO ORDERED: Formal complaint 20FC:056 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 July 16, 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. A pseudonym for ‘concerned citizen of Butler County - Joe’.
2. “Upon returning to open session, it was moved by Eddy, second by Barnett to counter-offer the State Auditor’s Office $5,000 for Sheriff Special Audit fees. All ayes. Motion carried.”
CERTIFICATE OF MAILING
This document was sent by electronic mail on the ___ day of July, 2020, to:
Greg Lievens, Butler County Attorney