The Iowa Public Information Board
COMES NOW, Margaret E. Johnson, Executive Director for the Iowa Public Information Board (IPIB), and enters this Acceptance Order.
On June 11, 2020, Jamie Simpson filed formal complaint 20FC:0059, alleging that the Essex City Council (Council) violated Iowa Code chapter 21 at a meeting on June 10, 2020. She stated that the Council held an electronic meeting without providing public access to the meeting.
The Council held the June 10, 2020, meeting utilizing the online application “Zoom”. The Council did not allow some members of the public access to the meeting until the agenda item each had expressed interest in came up on the agenda. Ms. Simpson was not given access to the electronic meeting and was unable to hear deliberations or votes prior to being “invited” into the meeting.
Iowa Code section 21.3 states that meetings shall be conducted in open session:
Meetings of governmental bodies shall be preceded by public notice as provided in section 21.4 and shall be held in open session unless closed sessions are expressly permitted by law. Except as provided in section 21.5, all actions and discussions at meetings of governmental bodies, whether formal or informal, shall be conducted and executed in open session.
Governor Kim Reynolds, by proclamation, has temporarily modified Chapter 21 to allow for electronic meetings pursuant to Iowa Code section 21.8 “provided that the governmental body provides a means for the public to participate by telephone or electronically as provided in this section.”
If a governmental body is using an online application for video and audio access to an open meeting, the governmental body must allow public access to the entire meeting.
The Council did not follow the requirements of Iowa Code chapter 21 when holding the June 10, 2020, meeting.
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 meets those requirements.
IT IS SO ORDERED: Formal complaint 20FC:059 is accepted pursuant to Iowa Code section 23.8(1) and Iowa Administrative Rule 497-2.1(2)(a). Parties are directed to work with IPIB staff to negotiate an informal resolution to the complaint.
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. The “Zoom” application requires the meeting coordinator to authorize access for anyone asking to join the meeting. Without this authorization, a person is not able to view or hear the meeting.
2. See section 139 of the Governor’s Proclamation dated May 26, 2020.
CERTIFICATE OF MAILING
This document was sent by electronic mail on the ___ day of July, 2020, to:
Mahlon Sorensen, legal counsel for the Essex City Council