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 August 13, 2020, Andrew Schoenwolf filed formal complaint 20FC:0078, alleging that the Butler County Sheriff (Sheriff) violated Iowa Code chapter 22.
Mr. Schoenwolf alleged that the Sheriff violated Iowa Code chapter 22 by refusing to fulfill his request for public records on July 3, 2020. He alleged that he requested copies of the employee handbook, employee policies, a call log of deputy Collin Freesman for July 3, 2020, the names of any sheriff employees contacted between 3:00 and 4:00 p.m. on that day, all evidence related to a citation issued to him, and all service records relating to deputy Freesman, including internal affairs investigations.
The Sheriff was notified of the complaint on August 17, 2020. On August 19, 2020, the chief deputy responded, noting that he was on vacation in early July when he was notified that Mr. Schoenwolf had requested the records recited above. Upon his return to the office, he reviewed the requests. Some of the records were not in the custody of the Sheriff. Others, such as internal affairs reports, did not exist. He had questions about other records before he could release them. The deputy sheriff stated that he was unable to reach Mr. Schoenwolf on the telephone number he provided.
When Mr. Schoenwolf contacted the Sheriff on August 3, 2020, the deputy sheriff was able to talk with him. He informed Mr. Schoenwald that the deputy’s personnel file was confidential and that he did not have access to the deputy’s personal cell phone. He agreed to contact the deputy to get the call information requested. This was accomplished on August 4, 2020. The office policies were provided to Mr. Schoenwald on August 14, 2020. Additional information following conversations with the county attorney were sent to Mr. Schoenwald on that date as well.
On August 27, 2020, Mr. Schoenwald confirmed that he received his records:
The butler county sheriff department has finally given the last of the records I wanted if you could just send them something informing them about the laws and time frame that they have to provide standard records and that being law enforcement doesn't give them the right to break state law and not follow the laws that would be great thank you
Mr. Schoenwald was provided a copy of the FAQ (frequently asked question) concerning timeliness of fulfilling record releases (see Exhibit 1). No additional correspondence has been received.
The delay in the release of the records appears to be attributable to vacation schedules, lost requests, a failed attempt to contact Mr. Schoenwald, and communication delays between employees in the Sheriff’s office and the county attorney. The records have been released, and by issuance of this Order, the Sheriff is advised of the best practices to observe in the future to avoid delay.
The IPIB has determined that this is not a typical circumstance and is not to be considered as setting a precedent for what is a reasonable amount of time to respond to a record request.
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:078 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.
CERTIFICATE OF MAILING
This document was sent by electronic mail on the ___ day of September 17, 2020, to:
Jason Johnson, Butler County Sheriff
Greg Lievens, Butler County Attorney