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Vanessa Johnson/Buchanan County Sheriff Office - Dismissal Order

The Iowa Public Information Board

In re the Matter of:

Vanessa Johnson, Complainant

And Concerning:

Buchanan County Sheriff’s Office, Respondent


                      Case Number: 20FC:0064


                              Dismissal Order



COMES NOW, Margaret E. Johnson, Executive Director for the Iowa Public Information Board (IPIB), and enters this Dismissal Order.


On June 25, 2020, Vanessa Johnson filed formal complaint 20FC:0064, alleging that the Buchanan County Sheriff’s Office (Sheriff) violated Iowa Code chapter 22.


Ms. Johnson requested a copy of a “call for service” from the Sheriff on June 21, 2020.  On June 25, 2020, the communications supervisor for the Sheriff responded to the record request, informing Ms. Johnson that there is a $10.00 fee for the record which could be paid at the door when she retrieved the records at the Sheriff’s office.  The same email informed Ms. Johnson that the Sheriff required her to wear a mask to enter the jail.


Ms. Johnson alleged that she did not have a mask and that requiring her to wear a mask is a violation of her constitutional rights.  She informed the Sheriff that she would pay for the records by credit card and asked that the records be emailed or faxed.


In response to her complaint, the Sheriff stated that his office has never accepted credit cards, only checks and cash.  The Sheriff follows the rules set forth by Buchanan County due to public safety concerns in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.  Masks can be provided to those who do not have one.  The records could be mailed to her upon receipt of payment.


Ms. Johnson replied that she did not want the records mailed to her, only emailed or faxed.


On July 8, 2020, the Buchanan county attorney filed a supplemental response.  He stated that the requested record could not be emailed or faxed as it includes an audio recording on a CD.  Ms. Johnson disputes this as she has received audio files by emails in the past.  The county attorney stated that this audio file cannot be emailed due to its size.


At this point in time, the record is available and ready for payment and pickup or mailing.  There has not been any violation of Iowa Code chapter 22.  In addition, Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds has issued a proclamation that temporarily allows certain modifications to Chapter 22.  The current proclamation states:


SECTION ONE HUNDRED SEVENTEEN.  Pursuant to Iowa Code § 29C.6(6) and Iowa Code § 135.144(3), in conjunction with the Iowa Department of Public Health and at the request of the Iowa League of Cities on behalf of numerous local governmental bodies, I continue to temporarily suspend the regulatory provisions of Iowa Code § 22.4 to the extent those provisions require a lawful custodian of records to maintain office hours to receive in-person record requests, so long as the custodian has posted clear direction for making requests in writing, by telephone, or by electronic means in a prominent place that is easily accessible to the public. (expires 8/23/20)


The requirement to wear a mask when physically visiting the Sheriff’s office to retrieve a record would not be beyond the authority granted to a government body by this proclamation.  In addition, Ms. Johnson does not need to visit the Sheriff’s office or wear a mask if she mails in the fee for the records and requests that the records be mailed.


Iowa Code section 23.8 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 meet those requirements.  


IT IS SO ORDERED:  Formal complaint 20FC:064 is dismissed as without merit 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.  The request included any audio recordings, written transcripts of the call, caller ID number, caller name and address, origin of the call, and a list of who received notification of the call.
2. Iowa Code chapter 22 does not address the method of payment for public records.



This document was sent by electronic mail on the ___ day of August, 2020, to:


Vanessa Johnson

Buchanan County attorney, Shawn Harden

Buchanan County sheriff, Bill Wolfgram


Printed from the website on May 18, 2021 at 12:56pm.