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 August 23, 2020, Eric Henely filed formal complaint 20FC:0081, alleging that the Gilbert Community School District (District) violated Iowa Code chapter 21 on August 12, 2020.
Mr. Henely alleged that the District rescheduled the August 10, 2020, meeting to August 12, 2020, due to the derecho on that date. The meeting was also moved to a different location when rescheduled. He stated that when he tried to access the meeting through YouTube, the link was not functioning. He then sent an email to the school board superintendent and secretary to report this.
When he arrived at the school for the meeting, all the doors were locked. He could see directional signs inside the building to attend, but could not open the doors. He was unable to attend this meeting in person.
Once he returned home, he was able to view a portion of the meeting through a Facebook link. However, this link quit after 21 minutes. The next day, the District posted a notice on YouTube with new links to view a recording of the meeting. While watching this link, he observed one board member announce that he received a text message notifying him that the doors were locked and the link to YouTube did not work. It was apparent that the District was aware there was no contemporaneous access to the meeting.
Legal counsel for the District responded to the complaint. She stated that the new location had the doors set to “Away” which kept the doors locked except when overridden by someone with a key fob. On August 12, 2020, a District employee opened the doors for the meeting. However, the “Away” setting had automatically expired on August 11, 2020, so the normal setting was in place. The doors then automatically locked at 6 p.m., after the board members had entered the building.
The board members were unaware that the doors had relocked until the text was received at 6:50 p.m. At that time, the doors were again unlocked.
The YouTube link posted on the agenda was not active when the meeting began. The first twenty minutes of the meeting was on a different link. The meeting was not streamed from 6:21 to 6:25 while the technology coordinator worked to return the streaming access to the proper link. The link on the agenda became active at 6:25 p.m. for the remainder of the meeting.
Legal counsel agreed that this meeting was not contemporaneously accessible to the public. She suggested that the negotiations currently underway in another of Mr. Henley’s formal complaints (20FC:0070) be expanded to include this complaint.
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:081 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.
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, 2020, to:
Gilbert Community School District, Carrie Weber, legal counsel