The Iowa Public Information Board
COMES NOW, the Iowa Public Information Board (IPIB), and enters this Acceptance Order.
On July 13, 2020, Eric Henely filed formal complaint 20FC:0070, alleging that the Gilbert Community School District (District) violated Iowa Code chapter 21 on July 1, 2020.
Mr. Henely alleged that the District violated Iowa Code chapter 21 by limiting the number of people present in the room during the meeting. The District allowed the public to present comments during the open forum in person. However, in order to have less than 10 persons in the meeting room, speakers had to wait in an adjacent room until it was their turn to speak.
He stated that it was difficult to hear what was occurring during the meeting while waiting in this room. The District recorded and live-streamed the meeting. The recording is available to the public.
In addition, Mr. Henely alleged that the District violated Iowa Code section 21.8 by failing to include in the minutes a statement regarding the reason for an electronic meeting.
The agenda for the July 1, 2020, meeting does not indicate that the meeting is an electronic meeting. All five members of the District board of directors were present during the meeting. Some staff and nine Return to Learn Team members appeared electronically by Zoom. The meeting was available for contemporaneous viewing by the members of the public through YouTube, but members of the public were not allowed to speak or participate through Zoom.
The agenda specifically stated that attendance would be limited to 10 persons at a time due to COVID-19 safety concerns. Members of the public that wished to comment at the meeting were required to schedule that prior to the meeting and wait in a separate room. The District did not provide a means for those members of the public to view or listen to the meeting.
Because the meeting was not an electronic meeting pursuant to Iowa Code section 21.8, there was no need to indicate a reason for an electronic meeting on the agenda or in the minutes. The District did not violate Iowa Code section 21.8.
Beginning in March 2020, Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds has issued proclamations that have granted governmental bodies the ability to adopt rules modifying open meetings procedures. Section 124 of the proclamation in effect at the time of this meeting stated, in part:
“I also temporarily suspend those statutes to the extent they could be interpreted to prevent a governmental body from limiting the number of people present at an in-person location of the meeting, provided that the governmental body provides a means for the public to participate by telephone or electronically as provided in this section.”
Iowa Code section 21.7 allows a governmental body to make and enforce “reasonable rules for the conduct of its meetings.” Allowing public comment is not required pursuant to Chapter 21, although most governmental bodies do allow some public comment during a meeting. Many governmental bodies have rules concerning such public comment, even prior to the issuance of this proclamation by the Governor.
The District did not provide Mr. Henely “a means … to participate by telephone or electronically” for the entire meeting. Iowa Code chapter 21 and the Governor’s Proclamation was not followed by the District.
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 meets those requirements as it pertains to the lack of access to the meeting.
IT IS SO ORDERED: Formal complaint 20FC:070 is accepted as legally sufficient 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 reach an informal resolution pursuant to Iowa Code section 23.9.
SO ORDERED THIS 20TH DAY OF AUGUST, 2020.
CERTIFICATE OF MAILING
This document was sent by electronic mail on the ___ day of August, 2020, to:
Gilbert Community School District