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 25, 2020, Julie Becker filed her initial formal complaint against the Dallas Center City Clerk (Clerk) and the Dallas Center Library Board (Board) alleging that both had violated Iowa Code chapter 21.
On August 7, 2020, Ms. Becker filed an amended complaint that she characterized as a “transparency complaint.” She was joined in the amended complaint by Robert Haxton.
In the initial complaint she alleged that on May 26, 2020, she requested materials for the May 27, 2020, Board meeting:
The Dallas Center City Clerk was in violation of the Iowa Open Meetings Law, Iowa Code 21.4, by her failure to provide vital information and materials 24 hours in advance of a public city library board meeting. This has been an ongoing problem, which the City Clerk refuses to remedy. The City Clerk has informed me, on more than one occasion, that she does NOT have to provide the public with materials to be discussed at the Library Board of Trustees meetings 24-hours in advance and that she only has to provide me an agenda (and a very vague agenda at that) for the City Library Board of Trustees meetings.
Her initial complaint against the Board alleged:
The Dallas Center Library Board of Trustees was in violation of Iowa Open Meetings Law, Iowa Code 21.4, by its failure to adequately inform the public with the "Library Board of Trustees Meeting Agenda for May 27, 2020", of actions taken by the Library Board in voting to approve amending a contract by more than $118,646, an amendment related to the construction of the multimillion dollar Library addition. The Library Board meeting agendas, published for the public, are so vague; they do not truly inform of the Library Boards actions. The last 12 months of library agendas fail to meet the most basic requirements of informing the public of the library actions and items of discussion, including the Library Board of Trustees Agenda for the May 27, 2020 meeting.
Ms. Becker included in her complaint a recitation of the events surrounding the Board decision to approve the contract amendment and submit that proposed amendment for City Council review and action at the June 9, 2020, meeting.
Ms. Becker provided a copy of the agenda for the Board meeting in question. That agenda listed “New -- 2020.7 Updated Estes Contract - Phase 2” as the agenda item for the alleged agenda violation (see Attachment A).
Ms. Becker requested that the IPIB require the Clerk to post more descriptive agendas and all meeting materials more than the minimum 24 hours prior to Board meetings. She also requested that the IPIB void the library contract.
The city attorney responded to the complaint on August 3, 2020. He noted that the agenda was sufficient and posted 27 hours prior to the meeting. He stated that chapter 21 does not require posting of the board materials. The Clerk considered the request for the Board materials to be a request for public records. She provided the records at no charge within five hours of receiving Ms. Becker’s request and prior to the Board meeting.
Following this response, Ms. Becker, joined by Robert Haxton, amended her complaint on August 7, 2020, to allege that the May 27, 2020, meeting minutes were inaccurate. The city attorney disputed this allegation. The minutes state: “Katie moved and Bob seconded to begin Phase 2 of addition/remodel project. Phase consists of design and drawings of the addition and bidding process. Vote 4-0, 1 abstention (Heather Willrich abstained).” She provided a short (1:46 minute) audio recording of this vote.
Mr. Brown responded to the additional complaint concerning the minutes. He stated that the Board minutes meet the requirements of Iowa Code section 21.3 which states:
Each governmental body shall keep minutes of all its meetings showing the date, time and place, the members present, and the action taken at each meeting. The minutes shall show the results of each vote taken and information sufficient to indicate the vote of each member present. The vote of each member present shall be made public at the open session. The minutes shall be public records open to public inspection.
Upon review of the audio recording, it appears that while the motion may have been inartful, the minutes meet the requirements of Iowa Code chapter 21 in that they accurately show the results of the vote taken by a roll call vote and indicate the vote of each member present. The votes were publicly cast by the Board with four members voting in favor of the motion and one abstaining.
Iowa Code section 21.4 requires the posting of an agenda 24 hours prior to a meeting. The tentative agenda is required to be “reasonably calculated to apprise the public of that information.” Board materials are not required to be posted prior to a meeting. The Clerk was compliant with the requirements of Iowa Code chapter 22 in responding to Ms. Becker’s request for Board materials.
The notice, agenda, and minutes are legally sufficient. There is no evidence of any violation of Chapter 21 or of Chapter 22 by the Board.
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:0077, as amended, 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 October 15, 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 Clerk is not a ‘governmental body’ as defined in Iowa Code section 21.2(1), and, therefore, not subject to the requirements of Chapter 21. However, the Clerk can be a ‘lawful custodian’ of a ‘government body’ as defined by Iowa Code section 22.1(2) The Board is a governmental/government body and subject to the requirements of Chapters 21 and 22.
CERTIFICATE OF MAILING
This document was sent by electronic mail on the ___ day of October, 2020, to:
Ralph Brown, counsel for the City of Dallas Center