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 July 16, 2020, Jean Lewis filed formal complaint 20FC:0075, alleging that the Jasper County Board of Health (Board) violated Iowa Code chapter 21 at a meeting on July 9, 2020. She alleged that the agenda for that meeting was insufficient and did not properly inform the public of the action to be taken.
The agenda for the meeting in question listed the following agenda items:
Ms. Lewis also alleged a violation of Iowa Code chapter 22, stating that she requested copies of past minutes and board packets on July 15, 2020, and had not received these records as of July 16, 2020. She also argued that public records should be available on the Board website. This allegation is not a violation of Iowa Code chapter 22.
On July 27, 2020, the Jasper county attorney responded to the complaint. He stated that the agenda item “Budget” was sufficient to notify the public as it “notices the public that the BOH (Board of Health) budget will be discussed in some way, shape, or form.” He added that there was more than one area of the budget discussed.
Iowa Code section 21.4(1)(a) requires the posting of an agenda that is “reasonably calculated to apprise the public of that information.” As recommended by the IPIB in a FAQ (frequently asked question) on the IPIB website, an agenda “must include more information than simply reciting such catchall items as ‘Approval of minutes; old business; new business,’ or by using the same agenda contents for meeting after meeting.” The FAQ also references a 1991 Iowa Supreme Court decision that provides additional guidance:
In its opinion in KCOB/KLVN, Inc. v. Jasper County Bd. of Sup’rs., 473 N.W.2d 171 (Iowa 1991), the Iowa Supreme Court set forth several guidelines for meeting notices and tentative agendas. These included:
“… (T)he content of a tentative agenda notice can be subject to change. … (A) proper construction of the notice provision in section 21.4 allows discussion and action on emergency items that are first ascertained at a meeting for which proper notice was given. … However, if action can be reasonably deferred to a later meeting, this should be done.” In other words, if action can be delayed for at least 24 hours to allow for legal notice, it should be.
“… The sufficiency of the detail on the tentative agenda must be viewed in the context of surrounding events.” Here the Court said that the test for a tentative agenda was whether the information was reasonably sufficient to alert interested people as to the subject matter to be considered. (For example, in Vandaele v. Board of Education (2002 WL 575666), the Iowa Court of Appeals ruled that a brief item on a school board agenda was sufficient, citing evidence that the superintendent had discussed the issue in newspapers and that the meeting was well publicized.)
The agenda for the July 9, 2020, Board meeting was insufficient and did not provide adequate notice.
The portion of the complaint alleging a violation of Iowa Code chapter 22 is without merit.
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 as to the alleged violation of Iowa Code chapter 21.
IT IS SO ORDERED: Formal complaint 20FC:0075 is accepted pursuant to Iowa Code section 23.8(1) and Iowa Administrative Rule 497-2.1(2)(a) as to the alleged violation of Iowa Code chapter 21 only. 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 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. Ms. Lewis also alleged that the Board improperly eliminated home health aide services, terminating the jobs of those employees. This issue is beyond the jurisdiction of the IPIB pursuant to Iowa Code section 23.1 and will not be addressed further in this Order.
2. The Board replied to the record request after the filing of the complaint on July 16, 2020, stating that records could be produced by July 31, 2020. Parties then engaged in communication to effectuate the release of the records. The records were received on July 23, 2020.
CERTIFICATE OF MAILING
This document was sent by electronic mail on the ___ day of August, 2020, to:
Jasper County Board of Health, Scott Nicholson, county attorney