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 July 22, 2020, Anne Kruse, city attorney for the City of Postville (City), filed formal complaint 20FC:0076, alleging that the Postville Volunteer Fire Department (Department) violated Iowa Code chapter 22 by not submitting certain reports to the City.
Ms. Kruse provided a copy of the Postville City Council Minutes from June 8, 2020. During that meeting, the Council voted to require the Department to “submit to the City Council each month their bank statements, bills, income and expenditure reports each month at no cost to the City….The City requested the Fire Chief to request the reports each month for Council review.”
On August 18, 2020, after the filing of this complaint, Ms. Kruse submitted an email dated July 28, 2020, from the Postville fire chief addressed to the Department in which he requested “copies of the monthly minutes and financials at no charge. The request was that they be turned in prior to the City Council meeting on the 2nd Monday of each Month.”
Ms. Kruse stated that the Iowa State Auditor reported on February 25, 2020, that the Department “is considered to be a department of the City for financial audit purposes.” A review of the online audit indicated that funds collected by the Department are public funds and should have been deposited with the City of Postville. The audit does not appear to determine that the Department is independent of the City.
The president of the Department was informed by mail of the complaint on August 3, 2020. No response has been received.
Iowa Code section 21.1(3) defines public records:
3. a. “Public records” includes all records, documents, tape, or other information, stored or preserved in any medium, of or belonging to this state or any county, city, township, school corporation, political subdivision, nonprofit corporation other than a fair conducting a fair event as provided in chapter 174, whose facilities or indebtedness are supported in whole or in part with property tax revenue and which is licensed to conduct pari-mutuel wagering pursuant to chapter 99D, or tax-supported district in this state, or any branch, department, board, bureau, commission, council, or committee of any of the foregoing.
b. “Public records” also includes all records relating to the investment of public funds including but not limited to investment policies, instructions, trading orders, or contracts, whether in the custody of the public body responsible for the public funds or a fiduciary or other third party.
“Public Records” does not include records that do not exist. To the extent that a request is prospective in nature and does not refer to records that exist, this would not be a request for public records as defined by Iowa Code chapter 22.
In addition, the Department is not considered a separate entity from the City. A request for information from the government body, in this case the City, made to a department of that government body, the Department in this scenario, is not a public record request made to the lawful custodian as defined and required by Iowa Code section 22.1(2).
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 meet those requirements.
IT IS SO ORDERED: Formal complaint 20FC:0076 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 September 17, 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. Since the City considers the Department to be a subunit of the City, any records generated by that subunit would be City records, and the City would be the lawful custodian.
CERTIFICATE OF MAILING
This document was sent by electronic mail on the ___ day of September, 2020, to:
Postville Volunteer Fire Department